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"* me LUNCLT 

2 PLANET 

3 A Fantastic 
JJ; Atorp/et 

4? MURRAY 
LEINSTER 

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~ SECRECY 



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An Amazinq Novel 
Bt/ JAMES BUSK 












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WONDER 

VOL XXXV, No. 2 A THRILLING PUBLICATION December, 1949 



A Complete Novel 

LET THE FINDER BEWARE 

By JAMES BUSH 

When Danny Caiden discovers that he is able 
to foretell the future, he realizes he must 
find out how and why — or go thoroughly mad! 1 1 

Three Complete Novelets 

THE SHROUD OF SECRECY Raymond F. Jones 64 

A sequel to “The Alien Machine” in which Cal Meacham* s new job is an engineer’s 
heaven > until he’s led to peer beneath the surface 1 

THE LONELY PLANET Murray Leinster 80 

Revolving, sentient and unique, the creature-planet Alyx learns about men — and with 
catastrophic results, tries to serve them! 

THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS Arthur C. Clarke 106 

There were two men in a damaged space ship and there teas only air enough }or one 
of them — and somehow, a choice had to be made! 

Short Stories 

A BLADE OF GRASS Ray Bradbury 59 

Ullar, the curious rcbot scientist, rediscovers protoplasm 

SKIN DUPE William Morrison 98 

Smugglers break into a mass production beauty factory of the future 

THICKER THAN WATER Cleve Cartmill 123 

Jake Mutchison of Space Salvage, Inc , battles disaster on an Arcton lake 

THE COLORFUL CHARACTER L. Sprague de Comp 133 

Sir Erik Koskeloinen arrives on Earth to take the Institute bf storm 




Features 



THE READER SPEAKS The Editor 6 

WONDER ODDITIES Science Facts 132 

THE FRYING PAN .A Fanzine Review 156 

SCIENCE FICTION BOOK REVIEW A Department 160 



Published every other momh by STANDARD MAGAZINES, INC., 10 East 40th Street, New York 1C, 
N. Y. N. It. Pines, President. Copyright, 1949, by Standard Magazines., Inc. Subscription (12 issues), $3,00, 
single copies, 25e. Foreign and Canadian postage extra. Re-entered as second-clas6 matter October S, 1940, 
at the Post Office at New York, N. Y., under Act of March 3, 1879. Names of all characters used in stories 
and semi-fiction articles are fictitious. If the name of any living person or existing institution is used, it is 
a coincidence. 



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A DEPARTMENT FOR SCIENCE FICTION FANS 



T HERE was an interesting little story 
buried in an inside page of the Science 
News Letter for July ninth of this year. The 
gist of its four paragraphs was that two 
rare forms of white blood cells have been 
appearing in the veins of workers on the 
130-inch cyclotron in Rochester, New York. 

A cyclotron, as virtually all of you must 
knov , is an atom-smashing machine and it 
is logically believed by medical men that the 
alien white cells are the result of close con- 
tact with induced atomic experiments. 
Which is provocative of some extremely 
interesting speculation. 

True, one of the strange cell-types, a 
mononuclear affair, is not new to medicine 
— it has been previously spotted in the blood 
of unatomically-associated folk suffering 
from sore throats and other infections. But 
none of the workers in this instance was 
so infected. And the other new cell-type, 
which has a double nucleus, has not pre- 
viously been recorded by scientists in nor- 
mal blood. 

Biological Changes 

Perhaps the biological changes of the 
Atomic Era, awaited with hope and dread 
since the first detonation of the A-bomb at 
Alamogordo in late July of 1945, have al- 
ready begun to show themselves. 

Some time ago we had occasion to re- 
mark that, according to the best scientific 
opinion, it would take scores, perhaps hun- 
dreds of generations before the results of 
the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombings 
would reveal themselves in mutations of 
the human species — this according to fruit- 
flies, guinea pigs, golden hamsters and 
other laboratory creatures. 



The response this statement drew was 
curious to say the least. The attitude re- 
vealed by those who wrote in about it was 
one of distinct disappointment that drastic 
human mutation should be so long delayed. 
It was, “Shucks! Then we’re going to miss 
all the fun.” 

To which our only reply was a silent but 
heartfelt, “Ouch!” 

But for these impatient ones the story 
from Rochester should bring a ray of hope. 
The Atomic Age is definitely with us and 
apparently the mutations may come more 
rapidly than was supposed. At any rate, 
not only will there be some changes made 
but some changes are apparently already 
in the making. 

We recently received and rejected a story 
in which human beings, taking off for space, 
were transformed by cosmic rays into apes 
in a matter of hours. This, we felt, was an 
overtax of both editor and reader credu- 
lity. But that something is coming and com- 
ing rapidly in a biological sense seems prob- 
able. 

We are not going to hazard any guesses 
as to when changes will become noticeable, 
how they will affect humanity and what di- 
rection they will take. There is not enough 
evidence in as yet for even the wildest of 
guesswork. But we intend to keep both 
eyes and ears open for clues. 

New Types of Men 

The idea of human mutation under the 
influence of atomic radiation or cosmic rays 
is scarcely a new one in stf. It has — at least 
along certain obvious lines of conflict — 
been done virtually to death. Now, it seems, 
the reality lies just below the horizon. It 
{Continued on page 8) 



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THE READER SPEAKS 

(Continued from page 6) 

will be at least interesting' to discover how 
close to the future the writers have come. 

The extremely eminent Dr. Olaf Staple- 
don, whose position in English science, phi- 
losophy and letters is roughly analagou.s, 
if more active, to that in this country of 
Dr. Eric Temple Bell-John Taine, has pro- 
pounded the theory of induced mutation to 
meet extraterrestrial conditions in his 
famed lecture on “Interplanetary Man.” 

He suggests that, to meet the alien grav- 
ities, atmospheres and other conditions of 
the planets it will be necessary to create 
new types of homo sapiens — some of which 
will resemble what we are currently accus- 
tomed to pass in the streets only super- 
ficially. He may well be right — he very 
often is. 

Or perhaps, under the biological impact 
of the Atomic Era, evolution may run com- 
pletely amok, making the “sport” the nor- 
mal and the normal a sport. In such case it 
seems unlikely that human evolution will 
proceed uphill. It will scatter unthinkably 
as to type, and annihilation or retrogression 
or both will be the only possible result. 

However, Man is a tenacious and adapt- 
able breed of creature. And under the stim- 
ulus of atomics, once he has accustomed him- 
self to the idea, he may succeed in frus- 
trating his suicidal impulses and accept 
wisely the gift of stepped-up development to 
be used for his own improvement. 

When, as and if such developments occur 
it is highly probable that he will proceed 
along every line that opens to him — both 
good and harmful. It is what he does in the 
main that will count — and in the main he 
wants both to survive and to improve. 

A Gradual Process 

The sudden emergence of a group or 
class of mutated supermen seems unlikely 
and much too simple, although this is a fa- 
vorite theme of science fiction authors — 
perhaps because it lends itself readily to 
conflict. 

From H. G. Wells’ “Food of the Gods” to 
A. E. van Vogt’s “Sian” this conflict be- 
tween man and the mutational superman 
has been represented in terms of restric- 
tion, warfare and annihilation. Mutants 
are harried, hounded and hunted by resent- 



8 





ful “normals” who refuse to accept secon- 
dary roles in the evolutionary scheme of 
things. 

It is our hunch that the whole process will 
be far too gradual and too diffuse to permit 
of any such concentrated action- — at least 
for long. The whole pattern of human his- 
tory is against such conflict. 

In almost every case, during the post- 
Renaissance discoveries of American na- 
tives — Indian, Aztec and Inca — and of the 
aborigines of the Pacific areas and of Cen- 
tral and Southern Africa, it has been the 
superman (i.e, the white man) who has 
promoted the conflicts which resulted in the 
near extermination of the native races. 

The savages for the most part were pa- 
thetically eager to welcome the newcomers, 
who seemed to offer a way out of the squal- 
or, filth and disease in which most of the 
so-called savages lived. In many instances 
the newcomers were considered and treated 
as gods by virtue of their superior artifacts. 

It was not until Imperialistic Euro- 
peans practised exploitation and enslave- 
ment beyond endurance that the natives 
rebelled as a general rule. The hatreds en- 
gendered by the ruthless suppression of 
these rebellions through the “civilized” 
weapons of sword, gun and starvation have 
survived in too many cases to the present 
day and are at the root of much of the vast 
disturbance which is currently causing 
misery throughout the globe. 



Nothing to Fear 

If we should suddenly find ourselves being 
led out of our difficulties by a superior breed 
of men, who reveal ability to slice through 
the apparently insoluble problems that face 
us as easily as Alexander sliced the Gor- 
dian knot, it is unlikely that we would feel 
resentment- — at least as long as such lead- 
ers did not reduce us to slavery and want. 

And if these new beings were truly supe- 
rior, they would scarcely employ such weap- 
ons, nor would they need to. For the men 
who destroyed the Inca and Aztec empires 
were removed from their victims only by 
the steel of Western Europe and the acci- 
dental lack of black or copper pigmentation 
in their skins. 

We ought not to fear the thought of mu- 
tation — nor the reality — if it opens a path 
of existence improved mentally and spir- 
(ConUnued on page 141) 



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9 




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WITH "PULPtr’AND ’LOOKOUT' 8ETH BROWN 
AND HER BROTHER, ME. TRY THEIR LUCK 
ATHARPOON/NG A SWORDFISH . . . 




HER FOOTS// KEEP THIS 
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l I'VE GOT TO CUT 
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SWALLOWED \ QUICK WORK ON 
.SOME WATER J/K YOUR PART 



THINKING THE HUGE FISH TIRED FROM 
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HARPOONERS USE THEIR DORY TO CLOSE 
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, I'M KEEPING BLANE 
, , \ ABOARD FOR DRY j 
;g CLOTHES AND A A 
SNACK.WE’LL f' r 
S^lMEETYOtJ IN/ .. 
V PORT / 




THIS IS THE BLADE V THIN 
FOR ME/ NEVER HAD /GILLETTES 

i AN EASIER, MORE XMAKE SHORT 
L REFRESHING /WORK OF TOUGH 
SHAVE '^WHISKERS. THEY'RE 
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Let the Finder 
BEWABE! 






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When Danny Caiden discovers he 
can foretell the future, he must learn 
how and why, or go thoroughly madl 



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a novel by 
JAMES BLISH 



CHAPTER I 

Whispers in the Earth 

I T was a strange business, all of it. 

Not frightening, exactly — at least, 
not at first. It was just odd. It didn’t 
fit — didn’t make sense. Maybe the 
strangest thing about it was that it 
happened to Danny Caiden. 



Danny knew there was nothing wrong 
with him. He had an average income 
and enough education to handle the 
packaging page for a food-industry 
trade paper, even enough to write a 
poem or two on the side. It was not 




good poetry, but juBt an outlet for the 
way he felt on good days and bad ones. 
He was a little under six feet, with yel- 
low hair, a friendly face with a nose 
that was slightly too large for it and no 
obligations to anybody but himself. 

He was like many of the people in the 
world he occupied and be liked both the 
people and the world. On the rare days 



when he got sick of being enthusiastic 
over the latest way of wrapping some- 
thing basically inedible so that people 
would eat it, his stories became a little 
more acid and he had a beer or so before 
going back to his apartment. On the 
days when he loved everybody and did 
not have to work, he had a lot of beers 
and slept until noon. 



'•3 a 








THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



14 

He turned the word over a few times. 
It wasn’t quite right. What he had been 
having lately was voices — no, not even 
voices — just noises. Noises that hap- 
pened twice — once inside his head and 
once outside. 

That day for instance. He had come 
out of Childs after lunch, feeling a lit- 
tle too full, and had started to turn the 
corner to go back to the office. He re- 
membered being in the middle of a 
step, remembered wishing that his oth- 
er suit would get back from the cleaners. 
He remembered wondering whether or 
not he’d be sleepy in the middle of the 
afternoon, and whether or not the man 
from the orange-growers’ association 
would confirm that idiotic report that 
had come in from the trade paper’s 
Florida correspondent, whether the sen- 
ior editor would allow Danny’s caption 
on the bread-eating campaign picture 
to go through. 

Just around the corner someone 
screamed There had been a screaming 
sound of brakes and rubber. Then 
something metallic had hit something 
else. The impact was sudden and quickly 
over, almost as if a truck full of brass 
had been thrown off a high building. 

Then there were more screams and 
the sounds of people running. 

Danny didn't run. He had stopped 
abruptly and put his back against the 
cool concrete flank of the building. A 
month ago — about that — he had been 
coming around this same corner and 
had heard those same noises. He had 
run then but he’d found nothing around 
the corner but the usual slow rivers of 
people trudging back from their lunch 
hours. No horrified crowd — no accident 
— nothing. 

N OW he was afraid to go around 
that corner. He had forgotten the 
original illusion until now. But the exact 
one-for-one correspondence of the se- 
quence of sounds scared him and 
brought the first experience sharply 
back to mind. It was hard to believe that 
Danny’s stable, basically untroubled 
mind was slipping — but two illusions 
of this kind were enough to upset the 
most phlegmatic of men. 

People ran past Danny. He could not 
remember seeing anybody running be- 
fore. Fried scallops clumping in his 
stomach, he went around the comer. 

It had been an accident all right. A 



cab, trying to beat a light, had hit an 
avenue bus amidships and the gas tank 
of one of the two vehicles — it was hard 
to tell which — had burst. There was a 
pyre at the intersection and carbonized 
bodies sprawled or twitched feebly. The 
mob had drawn back, murmuring with 
horror and fascination. 

Danny, sick, had detoured, and stum- 
bled his way to his elevator. He was 
good for nothing for the rest of the 
afternoon. It was bad enough to have 
had the sounds of the collision in his 
head — but for Danny every one of those 
sounds had an echo. He had heard it a 
month before it happened. 

He was bawled out twice by the senior 
editor for being sarcastic about the 
merits of free enterprise, and after- 
wards had more than enough beers to 
put him back into an uncritical state. 

But now, at 3 :00 A.M., Danny was 
sober, awake and twitching his toes 
speculatively in the lamplight. For him 
that accident had happened twice. Some- 
thing had made him hear it before it 
happened. And things like this often 
happened to Danny. 

There was that finding trick. He had 
been kidded about it a long time but it 
worked — like last winter. Bill Emers 
had called from Banff, drunker than 
Silenus, demanding to know where he’d 
left his ski-wax. 

Without bothering to think Danny had 
said, “You put it on the right corner 
of the mantel but it’s been dumped off 
somehow. It’s probably in the bucket 
with the fire-tools.” 

It was too. Danny had never been to 
Banff, let alone to the lodge where Bill 
had been staying at the time. He had 
simply spoken without thinking, and he 
had been right — every time. 

So there it was. He took no stock in 
the supernatural but it was too late to 
ignore the fact that there was something 
strange about himself. Prophetic noises, 
a long-range sensitivity to where things 
were . . . 

Was that it then? A sensitivity — a 
special ability? There was always talk 
in the newspapers about people who 
could null off tricks that others couldn’t 
— women who glowed in the dark, girls 
who went floating out of their bedroom 
windows, little boys who attracted gush- 
es of water and oil or even “flows” of 
rocks. As a rather low grade newspa- 
perman Danny had seen more than his 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



share of such reports. The great press 
associations had odd ideas of what 
might interest a paper about food. 

So there was a line. It was no longer 
a question of just letting things like 
this happen to him. For one thing, they 
were too hard on the nerves. And there 
was always the chance that a special 
ability could be brought under control. 
Danny didn’t need too much imagina- 
tion to think of ways to use a prophetic 
sense. It was time now to find out what 
he had and why he had it. 

If he didn’t find out pretty soon, there 
wouldn’t be much left of his sanity. He 
wondered suddenly if he were already 
slightly off his chump — the strange 
noises just the first signs of a crack-up, 
really not related to outside events ex- 
cept by faulty memory or imagination. 

But had he imagined Bill Emers’ 
ski-wax? It seemed unlikely. No he’d 
have to go ahead on the assumption that 
he was still sane — find some of these 
people with weird talents — talk to them 
— run down whatever had been writ- 
ten about them. There had to be a lead 
somewhere. 

Relaxed by the decision he snapped off 
the light. At the same instant, for the 
first time, he heard voices. 

He knew at once, without knowing 
how he knew, that they were not voices 
of passers-by on the street. They were 
soundless, inside his head. And yet, 
somehow, they came from below, whis- 
pering — as if in the bedrock of the 
city. 

“There has been a Decision.” 

“Yes. I have estanned the tension.” 
“But the threshold, had been crossed.” 
Soundless voices whispering togeth- 
er, meaningless things. Danny felt the 
sweat coming out all over his body. The 
empty words had a cold tang of menace. 
And — they were about him. 

“So many paths.” 

“To the same goal, my brother” 

“Let the finder beware.” 

“The way is long. We must wait.” 
“Let us wait.” 

A FTER that there was a long inner 
silence. It took awhile for Danny 
to realize that there was to be no more. 
It was as if he had heard so much only 
because it touched upon him — that the 
whispers murmured now of things in- 
comprehensible and remote, though they 
still stood at his elbow. The words were 



15 

still being spoken but they were not for 
him. 

Danny had the strange feeling that 
he would have heard nothing even in 
the same room with the whisperers — 
their lips would move meaninglessly for 
him as if in a silent film. 

Or did the whisperers even have 
faces ? 

He put the question aside. The voices, 
for all their strange soundlessness, had 
been human. Their language had been 
English except for that strange word, 
perhaps a word labeling the nature of 
their conversation itself. Danny was not 
ready to believe in ghosts — not yet. 

He realized suddenly that he was ut- 
terly exhausted. Above and beyond the 
tiredness of his night’s vigil he felt 
drained, half dead, as if the mere act of 
listening to that silent colloquy had been 
a feat of endurance. His heart thudded 
in a slow leaden rhythm. 

He fell back, trembling. One thing 
was sure — there was something abroad 
in the world that normal people like 
Danny Caiden had never suspected. 
Something that Danny Caiden was 
being driven to find, blindly, unwilling- 
ly, driven by an unmanageable irrup- 
tion of wild talents. Something huge — 
unthinkable. 

Let the finder beware . . . 
***** 

It was in the middle of the next after- 
noon that the real blow fell, the blow 
that committed him to the search 
whether he willed it or not. 

Except for a giddy tiredness, a sort 
of poisonous residue of last night’s 
drained sensation, Danny felt much bet- 
ter. It was one thing to be alone in a 
dark room, already overtired and upset, 
prey to all sorts of dreams and delusions 
— and quite another to be twenty-one 
stories up in clear air, in bright sun- 
light, in one of the most modern build- 
ings in the whole city. 

Prophetic sounds, whispering voices 
— the battering of A1 Randall’s type- 
writer at his back was rough on them. 
Every noisy impact of key on platen 
pushed them further into the fogs of 
unreality. 

Joan Key, the senior editor’s chief 
factotum, leaned over his shoulder and 
tossed a sheaf of clippings and releases 
onto his desk. 

"Looks like a bad week,” she said 
resignedly. "Nothing coming in but 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



19 

junk and not much of that. There’s 
a follow-up on your wienie story in 
there.” 

“There is? You should give me big 
news like that in small doses. My heart 
isn’t what it used to be.” 

Joan took off her glasses and looked 
at Danny critically. “Come to think of 
it,” she said, “you do look a little wrung 
out today, Danny. Food business get- 
ting you down?” 

“It’s the Tantalus complex,” A1 said 
cheerfully. “All day long we write about 
things to eat and there’s nothing to chew 
but the erasers on the pencils.” 

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” 
Danny said. It made him uneasy to have 
to talk about it, as if talking about it 
somehow made it a little more real 
again. “That accident yesterday made 
me nervous and then I had funny 
dreams.” 

“Dreams?” said Sean Hennessy, the 
assistant news editor. He was a parlor 
Freudian, given to spot analyses of 
everyone he met and had already de- 
clared Pat Rickey, the big boss, to be 
an oral personality. “What kind of 
dreams ?” 

“He dreamt he was Drew Pearson,” 
an angry voice snapped from the door. 
A prickly lump in his throat, Danny 
looked over his shoulder. The voice be- 
longed to Rickey, who was one of the 
owners of the Delta Publishing Com- 
pany. It was only the second time he’d 
been in the Food Chronicler’s editorial 
cubby since Danny had been working 
there. In one hand he had a copy of the 
Chronicler crumpled into a rough tube. 
Danny couldn’t see which issue it was. 

Rickey said, “Where’s Mall?” 

“He’s talking to Mr. Dale in Account- 
ing,” Joan said. “Is something wrong, 
Mr. Rickey?” 

“Something wrong! I’ve got a thirty- 
time advertiser on my wire, burning hot 
and ready to cancel, that’s all.” Rickey 
jerked Joan’s extension from its crutch 
and growled into it. Joan looked inquir- 
ingly at Danny. He had nothing to offer 
but a miserable shrug. 

Almost before Rickey put the phone 
down Mall, the senior editor, was in the 
office, looking faintly green and stutter- 
ing slightly with excitement. Mall had 
never quite got over his first fear of 
being fired, though he had been with 
the firm eighteen years and drew ten 
thousand a year. 



“Now let’s get to the bottom of this,” 
Rickey said grimly. “Your by-line is on 
this story, Caiden. According to you 
International Wheat is due to be hit for 
price-fixing this week. International 
Wheat is going to cancel its contract 
with us. It may also sue us for libel and 
small wonder. Mall, how did this get 
past you?” 

M ALL turned a little greener. 

“That's the issue before last,” he 
said. “I was at the Canners’ Conven- 
tion. Joan was in charge.” 

Joan looked at the editor, her glance 
darting over the tops of her glasses like 
a school teacher pinning down an un- 
mannerly boy. “That’s right,” she said 
primly. “I saw the story and passed the 
statement. Why shouldn’t I have? Dan- 
ny had no reason to make up a thing 
like that.” 

“I don’t know,” Mall said. “He’s like 
most of the rest of you — thinks the 
day’s wasted if he can’t be sarcastic 
about big business at least once.” 

Joan looked more like a school 
teacher than ever. “Don’t be ridicu- 
lous,” she said. “You’d think price- 
fixing was Danny’s invention to hear 
you talk. There’s been an indictment a 
week for it ever since the multiple- 
basing-point decision.” 

“Why not get the source material out 
of the files?” A1 suggested practically. 
“If it says International was due to be 
indicted Danny was within his rights 
in reporting it.” 

“It’s no less libelous legally for being 
the truth,” Rickey muttered but he 
seemed willing enough to look at the 
evidence. 

Danny tried to remember what had 
happened to the source material on the 
story. The “files” to which A1 had re- 
ferred were actually a set of bins, into 
which dead releases, clippings and 
stories from correspondents were 
thrown after an issue had been put to 
bed. As soon as a bin was six months 
dead its contents were baled and sold 
to be re-pulped. 

As far as he could remember, the 
original story — a clip from the Journal 
of Commerce — hadn’t been binned. He’d 
put it in his bottom desk drawer to 
await a possible three-em add — a para- 
graph to be added to the Chronicler’s 
account at the last minute when the 
actual indictment came through. 





17 



18 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



As he pawed through the papers in 
the drawer he felt a sick certainty that 
the clip wouldn’t justify him. He hadn’t 
made the part of the story that had up- 
set Rickey out of whole cloth, but out 
of absolute certainty. What if that “cer- 
tainty” had been just another wild, un- 
controllable phantasm, unbackable by 
anything in the source files? 

“Here it is,” he said shakily. He was 
afraid to look at it. He passed it to 
Sean, who was closest. Sean immedi- 
ately began to read it with brash curi- 
osity but Rickey jerked it from his 
hands. 

Rickey devoured it slowly, line by 
line, word by word, his eyes bulging 
gluttonously. Danny began to under- 
stand what Sean meant by oral person- 
ality. Rickey took in that flimsy dis- 
patch as if he were a cannibal and it 
were a fat missionary. At the end he 
emitted a sigh of fierce repletion. 

“Not a word,” he said. “Not one sin- 
gle word. Anything to say, Caiden ?” 
Danny swallowed. “The week isn't 
over," he said. “They’ll be hit on or be- 
fore Friday — on nine counts, including 
discriminatory sales practises.” 

It was Joan who asked the lethal 
question but it might as well have been 
anyone in the tense little office. She said, 
“Danny, how do you know?” 

All five of them looked at him. Dan- 
ny's tired brain raced but somehow the 
clutch wasn’t in. He knew that he knew. 
International Wheat would get its in- 
dictment tomorrow or Friday. It was 
the original lead pipe cinch. But he did 
not know how he knew. 

The silence ran out like sand. Rickey 
said, “All right, Caiden. Pick up your 
check as you leave.” 



CHAPTER II 
The Clouded Crystal Ball 



D ANNY packed up his property in 
complete silence — necessarily, be- 
cause Rickey remained to see that he 
left. Joan and A1 fiddled aimlessly with 
pencils and would not look at each other 
or at Danny. Sean ripped the long yel- 
low sheet of copy paper out of his type- 
writer, collapsed the typewriter into the 
desk and glared at Mall. 



Mall stood up under Sean’s Irish in- 
dignation for a moment, then sat down 
at his own desk and ostentatiously be- 
gan to type. His machine was a noiseless 
but it seemed inordinately loud. 

Danny took a manila envelope from 
the supply shelf and dumped his papers 
into it. He was beginning to be angry. 
He found a red china-marking pencil 
that was strictly the property of the 
Delta Publishing Company and dropped 
that in too. Rickey said nothing. He 
waited until Danny had closed the flap 
on the envelope and sprung the metal 
clasp, then left. 

Mall continued to type. Sean got up. 

“Going my way, Danny?” he said. 

Mall stopped typing. “Did you get 
that coffee bureau story, Hennessy?” he 
said. His eyes were directed toward a 
spot about two feet over Sean's left 
shoulder. 

“Yes,” Sean said. “I got it. I have a 
place to put it too if you’re interested." 

Danny plucked at Sean’s elbow. 
“Don’t,” he said. “It isn’t your fight. 
There's more to it than you can see.” 

“I don’t give a damn. I’m sick of try- 
ing to be timid and obedient. Mall palls 
on me, all of a sudden. He’s too timid 
to fight for his own staff. What are you 
writing, Pall Mall? An editorial?” 

“I—” Mall said. 

“Full of resounding cliches — blow 
hot, blow cold, say nothing, eh?” Sean 
said. His young face, dark and beard- 
less as a Spaniard’s, was full of pleas- 
ure. “All about food. What do you know 
about food? You live on plaster, like a 
silverfish — but attractively packaged, 
of course*** 

“You’re fired," Mall said. “Get out.” 

Sean chuckled. He looked at Danny. 
“Isn’t he quick?” he said. “You only 
have to hit him four times and he begins 
to wonder if he’s uncomfortable. Of 
course he won’t know he’s uncomfort- 
able until Rickey tells him he is. Let’s 
go have a drink.” 

It was hard not to be delighted by 
Sean’s jubilant support. But Sean lived 
in the sunlit air twenty-one stories 
above the street. He might easily have 
tossed up his job in defense of madness. 
It occurred to Danny that Sean might 
take special pleasure in tossing up his 
job in defense of madness. 

Sean was quiet until they were set- 
tled in a booth but he looked gleeful all 
the way. “Been wanting to do that for 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE t 19 



two years," he said. “Glad you gave me 
the excuse — two beers, Junior — or I 
might never have done it. That’s that. 

“Now I can start going to school in 
the daytime. Maybe even get my degree 
before the war breaks out — not that I’ll 
have any use for it then. Do you know, 
Danny, I really loved combat? First 
time in my life I ever felt like some- 
body. What’s your trouble, Danny?” 

The question fell so suddenly and 
with such little apparent significance 
into the midst of Sean's chatter that 
Danny found himself answering with- 
out thinking. Maybe Sean really should 
be a psychoanalyst, he thought. He cer- 
tainly had the gift for luring people 
into talking. 

Yet he could see no reason why he 
should not tell Sean the story once he 
had started. The beer helped. Hesitantly 
it all came out — the noises, the finding 
trick, the flash of certainty that had got 
him fired. 

S OMEHOW, though, he knew it was 
important not to mention the voices. 
Partly because it would worry Sean, 
make him think perhaps that Danny 
was off his rocker in some demonstrable 
way, partly because — well, because he 
knew it was important, knew it as 
strongly as he knew that International 
Wheat would be indicted tomorrow or 
Friday. 

“I think there’ve been some other 
things but I can’t remember them all,” 
he wound up. “I was usually called a 
‘good guesser’ when I was a kid and — 
I hadn’t thought of this before but it 
seems to fit — the few times I got to the 
movies in the Bingo days or bought 
tickets for some kind of raffle I always 
got something. 

“Once I won a coffee pot and the guy 
on the stage made some crack about 
Boy Scouts and camping trips because 
I was wearing khaki shorts and shirt. 
And once I won a pig — an honest-to- 
goodness live pig — in a Thanksgiving 
drawing. I wanted to keep it for a pet 
but my parents wouldn’t let me. They 
had it butchered and we ate it Thanks- 
giving. My parents didn't like it — said 
it was too young to have any flavor — 
and it made me mad that they'd gone 
and killed it and then complained after- 
wards." 

Sean grinned and wiped beer foam 
off his narrow metteokms mustache. 



“Sure,” he said. “Normal reaction in 
an — ah — let’s call it a possessive person- 
ality, a gripping personality, so to 
speak. Incidentally, I don’t take much 
stock in your ‘wild-talents’ theory, Dan- 
ny, if you don’t mind. It’s ingenious but 
it breaks down. 

“What kind of imaginable talent 
could take the proper number out of a 
hat without seeing them and at the 
same time affect the numbers somebody 
else took out of a hat to make the first 
number the winner? Anybody who 
could control chance that far would be 
able to slow up horses and push the 
stock market around without stopping 
to think.” 

“Yeah,” Danny said. “I hadn’t 
thought of that.” 

“What interests me,” Sean said, “is a 
great big gap in your story about find- 
ing things. What happened to this guy 
Bill Emers?” 

Danny frowned. “Why, I never did 
see him again,” he said. “He was killed 
at Banff. Went tail over teacup off a ski 
jump and broke his spine in two places. 
I suppose he was drunk — he was drunk 
most of the time.” 

“Aha!” Sean pounced upon the an- 
swer. “But you didn’t have any pre- 
monition of this? Didn't have any pre- 
liminary noises or other sensations 
predicting his death?” 

“No-o-o-o. This kind of thing hasn’t 
happened frequently until lately, 
though, as I said.” 

“Of course it hasn’t. It’s never even 
occurred to you that Bill Emers proba- 
bly died the same day you found his ski 
wax for him. But your unconscious 
knows it — and blames itself ! Acci- 
dentally you made a perfectly logical 
guess. I think I’d have made a very sim- 
ilar guess under those circumstances. 

“When you heard of Bill’s death — 
well, you felt guilty. You began to have 
compensatory symptoms. After the 
symptoms got disturbing enough, you 
concocted a theory to explain them.” 
Sean shoved his empty glass out to 
the edge of the table. “Danny, you 
knew — subconsciously — that if you n 
n’t found Bill his ski wax, he probably 
wouldn’t have tried to make a jump 
while drunk. You’ve been blaming your- 
self ever since. But you’re not to blame. 
As soon as you realize that your trou- 
bles will go away.” 

The waiter took away the glasses, 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



20 

filled them again and returned them 
while Danny thought about it. Sean 
looked as satisfied as a cat who has just 
caught a big moth — the victim still flut- 
tering frantically but available for the 
kill at pleasure. 

Finally Danny said, “That’s good, 
Sean. I wish I could swallow it. It’s 
better than my theory. But why should 
I care about Bill Emers? I hardly knew 
him. He just called me for a gag — he’d 
heard rumors about my finding trick.” 

“Resentment,” Sean said. “Nobody 
likes to be the butt of a joke. When you 
heard that he’d been killed your resent- 
ment seemed to you like a good motive 
for murder. Believe me, Danny, the un- 
conscious isn’t rational and it never 
forgets. It can make you feel to blame 
for all kinds of fantastic things — things 
you wouldn’t even think of doing with 
the top of your mind.” 

“Okay. But this still doesn’t explain 
why I had the reputation for the find- 
ing trick in the first place. Everybody 
I used to know in college came to me 
to ask where to find things. I was al- 
ways right. Otherwise they’d have 
stopped coming to me.” 

Sean didn’t appear to be in the least 
disturbed. “Coincidence,” he said, dip- 
ping, his nose appreciatively into his 
beer. “People have an absurd faith in 
the limited principles of chance. Mathe- 
matically it’s perfectly possible for co- 
incidences to happen in almost indefi- 
nite chains.” 

“But they don’t.” 

“But they do,” Sean said. He pointed 
a long, slender finger at Danny. “They 
happen all the time. Why shouldn’t 
they? In an infinity of time anything 
can happen repeatedly without vio- 
lating chance. Chance is just a local 
ordinance. We have a whole school of 
scholarly nincompoops who keep tabs 
on repeated coincidences — with cards 
and dice and prediction and everything 
else under the sun. 

“When they get enough coincidences 
written down — say about dice — they 
claim that the man throwing the dice 
has some influence over them! Just a 
professorial version of your wild tal- 
ents theory, except that those birds 
ought to know better. 

“Danny, you’re just the victim of 
super-coincidence. You’re in a bad psy- 
chological situation because of your guilt 
feelings over your drunken skier. As it 



happens, at the same time you’re in- 
volved in what a mathematician would 
call a random chain, which gives you 
superficially good methods for ration- 
alizing your troubles.” 

It sounded reasonable. Danny said, 
“I guess you’re right, Sean. Got any 
recommendations ?” 

“I’m no analyst,” Sean said. “If you 
have the dough see a good one. But in 
the meantime try to realize that you’re 
just feeling guilty about Bill’s death 
and that, realistically, you’re not re- 
sponsible for it. If you don’t manage to 
convince yourself of that — well, sooner 
or later the random chain is going to 
break and you’ll have to concoct some 
other rationalization to explain away 
the truth. Your next rationalization is 
a cinch to be twice as nutty as your 
present one.” 

"I sort of thought I might go nuts 
over this business,” Danny said. He got 
up. He had only seen Sean order two 
rounds but somehow he was almost 
tight. 

Jeepers — this thing really has me 
down. Tioo-beer Caiden. What did Bill 
Emers look like, anyhoiv? 

“Goodbye,” he said. “Thanks, Sean.” 

H E went out, walking carefully. The 
golden curtain thrown across the 
door was only sunlight but normality 
seemed very shaky to him. The world 
outside was the same world he had left 
after being fired. Traffic droned along 
the asphalt. Pedestrians swung past 
him, heads slightly lowered, intent upon 
their business. High overhead among 
the pinnacles of the buildings a pontoon 
plane cruised, watching the harbor for 
the Port Authority. It was all very 
normal. 

How normal can you get? 

He smiled mirthlessly at himself. All 
right, Caiden, get over your shock. You 
made yourself promises about what 
you’d do if you turned out to have a 
real prophetic sense. Do you trust your 
own sanity enough to follow through! 

The question was rhetorical. Danny 
knew of no other way to keep himself 
eating. He hadn’t the talent for writing 
fiction, and editorial jobs — the only ones 
for which he was equipped — were tight- 
er this year than they had ever been. 
His one chance was to sink his few 
cents in a fantasm. 

Shrugging he crossed the street. His 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE I 21 



bank was on the ground floor of the 
building which housed Delta Publishing 
—Delta did its payroll banking there, 
so it had saved a good deal of trouble 
with identification and side trips to 
stow his small savings cheek to cheek 
with his ex-boss’ He was surprised to 
find that he had close to two thousand 
dollars. Well, that ought to serve. 

A subway took him to the financial 
district, an elevator to the brokerage 
firm which had been the subject of a 
field trip for Danny's economics class 
a year before. The junior partner, 
trained to remember the most insig- 
nificant face and name against possible 
developments, received him with ap- 
parent pleasure. 

“I want to try a few small trans- 
actions,” Danny said steadily. “Study- 
ing, you understand. I’ve some money 
to spare and I think actually entering it 
on the market would be valuable labo- 
ratory work for me.” 

The broker smiled ruefully. “No 
sewers where you live?” he said. “The 
market is tossing like a drunken mad- 
man this week. You couldn’t have 
picked a worse time. Personally, Mr. 
Caiden, I’d advise you just to throw 
your money off the back of a truck. 
It’s simpler; less mental agony.” 

“I’ve no personal interest in the 
money,” Danny insisted. “Win or lose, 
I want to see what happens and how it 
happens.” 

“All right. We’ll do our best for you. 
What do you want to do?” 

“Is it too late to sell Wheat short?” 
The broker goggled. “Sell it short? 
My lord, man, you’ll lose your pants. 
Wheat’s going up like a rocket, thanks 
to the war scare. Or do you want to get 
in on the futures market? If so you’re 
in the wrong place.” 

“No, I mean stock in International 
Wheat as a corporation. I’ve no interest 
in futures. Give me an option on ten 
shares at sixteen. You should find 
plenty of takers. Close with the first 
one, and sell when it hits sixteen on the 
downgrade.” 

“I suppose you know that that six- 
teen stands for sixteen hundred dollars 
— it hasn’t hit that on the Mp-grade yet. 
Oh, well, don’t remind me again that 
your purpose is scientific. I’m not used 
to being so objective. Any special time 
to be watchful?” 

Danny knew that the broker secretly 



considered him to be an idiot, but he 
kept his patience. “Friday, J should 
say, but it could break at any time.” 

“All right,” the broker said. “Nor- 
mally I’d have to ask you for security, 
as I’m sure you know, but I can’t see 
any likelihood that the FEC could get 
us for this deal. If it works, of course, 
it’ll be a killer but I’ll tell you frankly 
that it won’t. Anyhow I’ll play it your 
way.” 

Silently Danny handed a certified 
check across the desk. The broker put 
it into a drawer without looking at it. 

“Do you know what’s going to happen 
if it does work out the way you pre- 
dict?” 

Danny shook his head. 

“Just pray you don’t find out,” the 
broker said. “If you’re right you’ll find 
there’s worse things than losing your 
pants.” He looked down at his note-pad. 
“Now, if that’s all — ” 

“That,” Danny said, “is just the be- 
ginning.” 

W HILE his courage and his money 
still lasted Danny located a bookie 
joint — theoretically they were illegal in 
the city but actually they were seldom 
bothered and were easy to find — and set- 
tled himself comfortably with a beer 
and a copy of the day’s Racing Form. 

Something about him — the clean 
shirt, maybe — tipped off the regular 
customers and within five minutes he 
was approached by as many touts, all 
with tips directly out of the feedbag. 
Danny waved them off. This operation 
was going to be run strictly by feel. 
He was accepting no information, no 
matter how good it was, which did not 
come to him out of his own head. 

It took only an hour to make his 
nerves as jumpy and his shirt as wilted 
as those of the oldest habitue. At first 
he had lunged halfway out of his booth 
every time the bar’s phone rang. Now 
he just flinched a little and clenched his 
teeth. After a moment's telephone mut- 
tering a waiter in a filthy apron put 
another beer in. front of him. 

“You sure ain’t pickin’ ’em today, 
bub,” he said kindly. “Why don't you 
give over and go back home? The old 
man’ll forgive you,” 

Danny smiled feebly. “I picked a 
caboost again, eh? Well, we’ll give it 
one more turn. Let’s make it — um — ten 
to win on High Heart in the next.” 




22 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



“Your funeral. I’ll tell Joe” 

Danny nursed the beer, and thumbed 
the money in his jacket pocket. There 
had still been a fair wad of it when he 
had left the broker’s office. Now there 
were three bills and a handful of 
change. The precognitive sense had 
definitely cut out of operation. Danny 
wondered if it were gone for good. 
His head ached. 

The phone rang. 

“High Heart wins,” the waiter said. 
“Three to one. Mebbe your luck’s 
turned.” 

“Tell him to put the whole thing 
on Double Trouble to place.” 

“Why don’t you just take your win- 
nin’s?” the waiter said. “Joe don’t mind. 
He's honest when he has a good day.” 

"Double Trouble to place,” Danny 
snapped. The headache was beginning 
to get worse. 

“All right, all right.” The waiter 
went away. Danny gave up the beer and 
nursed his head instead. It was lo- 
calizing now, a tiny, white-hot thread 
inside his skull. He was beginning to 
see pin wheels. 

“Double Trouble places,” the waiter 
said. “I will keep my big yap shut, 
mister. What’ll it be?” 

Danny looked at the form. It was 
hard even to see the printing, let alone 
make out what it said. He tried to 
concentrate. 

Abruptly the headache went away. 
The sudden cessation of pain was al- 
most as dizzying as the pain itself. 

“Ugh,” he said involuntarily. “Oh — 
sorry, my head hurt. I’ll take Pally to 
win.” 

The waiter opened his mouth, seemed 
to remember his promise, and shut it 
again. Danny looked at the beer, then 
pushed it away. The after-effects were 
still making him a little seasick. He re- 
membered the sensation of deadly fa- 
tigue that had struck him down last 
night after overhearing the strange 
whispering. Evidently there were plenty 
of growing pains connected with the 
development of these wild talents. 

The phone rang, and Danny stiffened. 
If this one paid off, he told himself, 
he’d go home and take himself a rest. 
It already seemed two years since last 
night. 

The waiter was standing silently be- 
side the table. 

“Well?” 



“Flash in the pan,” the waiter said. 
“Joe says he wants you to quit. That’ll 
be ten bucks for the beers.” 

“Ten bucks?” 

On second thought it wasn’t surpris- 
ing. The place was illegal anyhow. The 
price of the beers probably covered the 
overhead — the cost of keeping the police 
looking the other way. He threw his 
last tenspot on the table and stumbled 
out. 

Precognition had blown a fuse. 



CHAPTER III 

The Medium 



T HE disastrous conclusion of the 
wild move left Danny in the worst 
tangle of loose ends he could remember. 
The sunlight poured almost horizontally 
between the close-set, massive buildings 
of the financial district, and anonymous 
collars padded homeward in a welter of 
briefcases. The business day was over. 

Down by the river the Solid Merit 
thinned out a little — just enough to 
admit the El, a few bars and soda 
fountains, a few tiny shops. Danny 
wandered, drifting, in his own personal 
fog of confusion that no sun could pene- 
trate. 

He was glumly amused to find a nar- 
row window under the El that was full 
of dream-books. The little shop had 
once been a stationery store as the big 
gold and red sign over it attested. But 
while it was waiting for a new lessee, 
it had taken in a medium. 

Well — why not? He was no more cast 
out onto the fringes of sanity than this 
faker. It might be that her talents were 
as real and as undependable as his. The 
undependability would answer a good 
many questions about the social status 
of mediums. And there was the possi- 
bility that the medium herself might 
have some answers for Danny. He 
went in. 

There was nothing inside but two 
chairs, a table and a doorway at the 
back, which was curtained with a moth- 
raddled Axminster rug. The floor was 
bare. Even the table was bare and very 
battered. 

The rug was moved aside and a girl 
came out. She was small and dark and 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



somehow rebellious. Her eyes burned 
sullenly and her mouth was set in an 
expression of contempt that seemed 
jarringly incongruous on so young a 
face. 

She was conventionally dressed in a 
dark tailored suit whose severity, cut to 
a dressmaker’s thinking, was school- 
marmish. The beauty of the girl burned 
through it. She was — exquisite. Her 
eyes met Danny’s. 

“May I help you?’’ 

Danny looked at her. He had totally 
forgotten his madness and the things 
that made it important. He was filled 
with a tremendous wonder. Finally he 
remembered to close his mouth. 

“Are — are you Mme. Zaza?" 

The girl smiled, almost angrily. “No." 
She scanned Danny frankly her eyes 
taking him in from crown to toes. Then 
she shrugged and turned. “I’ll fetch 
her." 

She went inside again. Danny tried 
to marshal his thoughts. After awhile 
the rug was pulled aside again and a 
middle-aged woman in shabby robes 
motioned him in. 

There was the usual crystal ball here 
and dull scarlet hangings. The girl 
stood at the back of the room. A trum- 
pet, suspended by two threads, hung 
overhead. 

“You seek to know the future?" the 
medium said in a throaty voice. 

“Not exactly. What I think I want 
is professional advice. I’ve had some 
experiences lately that make me think 
I may be — well, I guess you’d have to 
call it psychic.” 

The girl sniffed audibly and the 
woman shot her an annoyed glance. 
“My help is for all Lost Ones,” she in- 
toned smoothly. “Be seated, please. 
There are those whose Karma seeks the 
True Wisdom and those whose Will to 
Nirvana has become trapped in the 
Wheel. For those a Guru is needful.” 

“I don't follow you,” Danny said. 

“Listen and understand,” Mme. Zaza 
said. She made passes over the crystal 
globe, which promptly swirled with 
smoke. “Those whose gift it is to speak 
a little with the Great Outside know 
that man has nine souls as the Egyptian 
mages whispered long ago. Of these the 
least important is the Shadow. The 
most important is the Ka. It is possible 
when the stars are propitious to call 
the Ka — ” 



23 

The trumpet gave a premonitory 
squawk, as if clearing its throat. 
“Look,” Danny said, a little desperately. 
“Would you mind if I ask the ques- 
tions? I'm not interested in talking 
with anybody’s Ka. I can see the future 
a little myself. I want to know how to 
control it and some other things I seem 
to be able to do." 

The woman lifted her eyes raptly. 
“It is a great gift, to have the Sight,” 
she said. “It makes one very humble. 
But it takes much practise to become 
an Adept.” 

“Practise? Mental exercises?” 

“Not mental exercises, young man. 
The soul or rather the Oversoul-^the 
Ka. It must be sent out from the body 
into the Great Outside.” 

“In a trance?" 

“That is one way. It is not a thing to 
be learned in an evening. It will take 
months, perhaps years. You must re- 
turn here twice a week. We shall seek 
the advice of Those Who Have Gone 
Before and perhaps eventually attempt 
full contact.” 

“I haven’t that much time. 

The woman’s interest abruptly went 
into p deep freeze. “Very well,” she 
purred. “That will be five dollars, 
please.” 

Danny looked around. The girl had 
left sometime during the proceedings. 
He dug in his pocket and was vaguely 
surprised to find that he still had five 
bucks. On second thought, he put it 
away again and took out two ones. 

“For services rendered,” he said sar- 
donically. 

Mme. Zaza glared but she took the 
proffered money. It was evident that 
Danny was anything but her usual kind 
of customer. She turned her back on 
him and disappeared behind the scarlet 
hangings. 

The girl was in the bare front room, 
sitting on the edge of the table and 
swinging one slim leg idly. She raised 
one eyebrow at him. 

“Get your money’s worth?” she said. 

“I got what I deserved, anyhow," 
Danny said, smiling tentatively. 

She shrugged. “You looked mod- 
erately intelligent. Not the usual sucker. 
I wondered whether you’d be taken in 
by all that guflF.” 

Danny was surprised into laughing. 
“That's a funny way for a medium's 
apprentice to talk.” 




24 THRILLING WOKOER STORIES 



“I'm no apprentice. I’m just a prop 
girL I blow cigarette smoke into the 
glass egg and make the trumpet talk 
and all that. My aunt supplies the pat- 
ter." She looked at him keenly. “But 
you didn’t answer me. What’s brought 
you here? Or — are you from the cops?” 
“No, I’m not. What I told your aunt 
was the literal truth. Somehow I’ve de- 
veloped a couple of abnormal talents 
that I don’t understand and they’ve al- 
ready got me into a jam. Under the 
circumstances I'm willing to get infor- 
mation anywhere I can.” 

“You won’t get it from a medium,” 
the girl said. “You must be having bad 
dreams.” 

“No, I’m not,” Danny insisted, a little 
irritated. He wondered if the girl too 
was going to tell him to visit a psycho- 
analyst. “Plenty has happened to me in 
broad daylight. And I expect to have 
positive proof of one part of it by 
Friday.” 

“Balderdash! If you want informa- 
tion you should read Houdini’s book on 
spiritualists. It was ghost-written by 
Lovecraft but the facts were Houdini’s.” 
Underneath the scorn in her voice 
there was a faint hint of something 
else — was it disappointment? Danny 
couldn’t tell. He said carefully, “I don’t 
think it’s balderdash and no spiritualist 
has been playing tricks on me. I may 
quite possibly be crazy but I’m not a 
fool.” 

“Then why don’t you stop acting like 
one?” she said, getting up. 

W ITHOUT warning, a blinding 
stab of pain shot through Dan- 
ny’s head. In the foreground of his 
mind he became vividly, maddeningly 
conscious of a thousand billion tiny 
things whirling and whirling in a vast 
shimmer of movement. The pain in- 
creased and the whirling became faster. 

The table canted and shot up, strik- 
ing the ceiling a heavy blow. Plaster 
showered. The table slid sidewise, like a 
monstrous spider. A second later one 
of the chairs teetered hesitantly and 
leapt after it. 

The girl screamed and pressed back 
against the wall. Danny stood frozen, 
the whirling of the thousand billion 
tiny things wrapping his agonized 
brain in madness. 

Then there was a flash of colorless 
fire, then it was gone. The chair and 



table fell back again. One leg of the 
table splintered and snapped in the 
middle. 

Mme. Zaza ripped the curtain aside. 
“What the — ?” she said hoarsely. “Hey, 
you, what are you doing? You get out 
of here before I call the cops. I’m a 
decent woman and I won’t have people 
wrecking my place. Get out!” 

Danny bowed ironically. “Only a lit- 
tle demonstration,” he murmured. He 
went out. The girl watched him go, one 
hand thrown across her mouth, her eyes 
wide with fright. Danny grinned at her 
and flagged a cab. He had discovered a 
new wild talent. 

If there were any wilder ones, he’d 
just as soon do without them. 

He was hardly inside his apartment 
whe:i the telephone burst into a nerve- 
shattering outcry. Swearing, Danny 
crossed the room and snatched it up. 
“Hall-o,” he snapped. 

"Hello, Danny, where have you been ? 
Are you okay?” 

“Who wants to — oh, it's you, Sean. 
Yeah, I’m all right, I guess. I’ve been 
downtown, poking around the stock 
market.” 

“You were ?” Sean sounded incred- 
ulous. “You had me scared to death. 
I thought maybe you’d passed out or 
something — nearly ready to set the 
cops to looking for you, phoning hos- 
pitals and all that. Why don’t you stay 
home a day or so and get some rest?” 
Danny didn’t know whether to laugh 
or to feel exasperated. “Look, Sean,” he 
said. “You don’t have to take the world 
on your shoulders on my account. I’ve 
got something funny by the tail and 
I don’t mean to let go of it. But I’m 
satisfied that my sanity’s okay and my 
health too.” 

“Well, all right,” Sean said dubiously. 
“Let me know if you need any help.” 
“Sure. You can start right now. Do 
you remember the name of the guy who 
collected all that dope about wild 
talents? The press associations used to 
mention him all the time.” 

Sean snorted. “His name was Fort, 
Charles Fort. There’s a cult of Forteans 
here. Do you want to talk to them?” 

“I might,” Danny said. “Oh, and an- 
other thing-— do you happen to know if 
there’s a branch of the Psychic Re-' 
search Society here?” 

"Yes, they’re in the phone book. 
Are you making a collection of fellow- 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



25 



fruitcakes, Danny? If so, you might as 
well go out to the University too and 
throw dice with the parapsychology 

Kav<? tliprp 

“Good — I’ll do that,” Danny said. 
“That’s fine, Sean. Any other sug- 
gestions?” 

“You’ve heard my other one,” Sean 
said evenly. He sounded, Danny thought, 
a little disgusted. 

“See an analyst, eh?” 

“That’s it.” 

T HERE was an awkward silence. 

Danny said, “Okay, Sean, I’ll think 
about it. Thanks a lot. I’ll be seeing 
you.” 

“So long,” Sean said. 

For a moment Danny sat in his chair, 
frowning at nothing. Sean was an odd 
character — big-hearted, cheerful, ab- 
surdly generous, quick to take a share 
of other people’s burdens, quick to take 
anger at injustices which hardly affect- 
ed him personally — yet somehow unsta- 
ble, incalculable, evasive as mercury. 

Obviously he’d been a bit offended at 
Danny’s stubborn failure to accept the 
psychosis-theory. Perhaps also he would 
like to K e in on Danny's next moves — 
after all, he'd quit his own job in Dan- 
ny's behalf. 

Danny considered calling him back 
and letting him in on the stock-market 
deal, then thought better of it. Sean had 
very little money and there was no point 
in tormenting him with an opportunity 
he couldn't take — even if he were in- 
clined to credit it. 

Danny grinned ruefully. Come to 
think of it, he had very little money him- 
self. 

It was almost dark. Danny closed the 
Venetian blinds and put on the desk 
lamp. At the desk he wrote a letter. 



outlining in detail a number of things 
that hadn’t happened yet and specifying 
when they would happen. This he ad- 
dressed to himself. 

For all he knew the letter might be 
waste motion. He certainly didn’t need 
any proof for himself. But he might 
need help — and the postmark on that 
letter might serve him well later. He 
sealed it carefully, put it on the table 
by the door, where he’d be sure to see 
it tomorrow. 

It was queer about the ponies. Surely 
predicting the outcome of a horse-race 
was essentially simpler than fore-know- 
ing what a complicated set of factors 
like the stock market was going to do. 
Still, he’d hit the horses twice. That 
might just have been chance and 
then again — 

For the trick of throwing the furni- 
ture around he refused to attempt any 
explanation. There was a reminiscent 
twinge beneath his forehead. It looked 
as if he was going to be consuming a lot 
of aspirin before he was through. 

With lax fingers he set the alarm 
clock. He wondered if he had overlooked 
a bet, but he was too tired to worry 
about it. He sank onto the cot with a 
gasp of exhaustion. 

Dimly, in the hot, still air, soundless 
voices murmured together. 

“ The tension gathers.” 

“ Danger . 7 estann danger .” 
u We are prepared. Let us wait.” 

" Let vs wait.” 

Danny stirred uneasily. If only there 
were some meaning assignable to these 
sinister convocations! 

“The walker draws near, my brother” 
“ Let hin beware” 

“ Let the Under beware .” 

The voices took up their discussion of 

[Turn page ] 



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2fl THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



things beyond comprehension, beyond 
all eavesdropping. 

An icy dew crept over Danny’s fore- 
head. He sighed, and slumped into death- 
like sleep. 

Danny dreamt. Somewhere in the 
black night there was a tingling pain 
and a spinning of a thousand billion tiny 
things. He felt light and giddy. He 
turned over slowly and in the dream he 
aeemed to open his eyes and look down- 
ward, without surprise, at a deserted 
lamplit street ten stories below. 

Tlie tingling pain and the whirling 
continued. After awhile he felt a vague 
alarm that he should be even dreaming 
such a thing, and willed himself to move. 

Gently, he began to drift. The street 
revolved solemnly. A dark window, his 
own, came slowly into sight. Still face 
downward, he began to float back again. 
The window swallowed him and the 
dream was over. 



CHAPTER IV 
The Invader 



D ANNY stood up as Dr. Todd came 
out of his office. The parapsycholo- 
gist was a small, bald, and totally engag- 
ing man, quite unlike any professor 
Danny had ever seen before ; and he had 
been more than helpful, despite Danny’s 
demand that he be tested ahead of the 
lab’s regular schedule. 

“Well, Mr. Caiden,” the parapsychol- 
ogist said, “I really don’t know what 
made you think you were especially 
gifted parapsychologically. We’ve just 
eodified the results and I’m safe in say- 
ing that your psi quotient is quite thor- 
oughly moronic.” He sat down and pol- 
ished his glasses solemnly. 

Danny frowned. “No indication at 
all?” 

"None. Of course we can’t say defi- 
nitely until we’ve tested you over several 
months — preferably over several years. 
But the sampling tests show no better 
than average chance results on the cards 
and the dice both.” 

“Oh,” Danny said, grinning. “Then I 
can’t really be a moron or it would have 
been below the chance average.” 

“Don’t you believe it,” said Todd. “In 
this kind of work a score consistently 



below average is just as inexplicable by 
the laws of chance as a score consistent- 
ly above it. We have trunksful of data 
indicating strong negative effects on 
chance, exercised by people with strong 
psi quotients who were nervous, upset, 
anxious about their showings and so on.” 

“I begin to see. Considering my state 
of interest I should have shown a nega- 
tive effect?” 

“Well, that’s what we would have ex- 
pected had you shown any ability in this 
business,” the parapsychologist said 
cheerfully. “But you don’t, my boy. That 
is, you’re no good at the cards or the 
dice. Don’t forget that our experimental 
techniques explore only the most rudi- 
mentary kind of exercise of the psi fac- 
ulty. You may be in the position of a 
master chef being asked to make a 
shapely mud pie. You might be able to 
do it — and then again — ” 

“That’s letting me down easy,” Danny 
said. “But maybe you’re right. Is there 
any more?” 

“Oh, certainly. This is just a pream- 
ble. We’ve got positive results too. I only 
wanted to prepare you for the fact that 
we can’t make head or tail of them. The 
encephalograms, for instance. Your 
alpha pattern — the normal wave output 
of your brain at rest — is totally out of 
the ordinary. It follows the general 
modified sine curve that the usual alpha 
pattern does but there is a regular 
series of secondary modulations that 
are quite new to me.” 

“But you don’t know what it means?” 

“I can guess,” Todd said cautiously. 
“Remember that the alpha pattern rep- 
resents the activity of the brain at rest. 
As soon as any active thinking begins 
the wave contorts into bow-knots. Ten- 
tatively we can say that at least one 
other part of your brain which nobody 
uses, or at least nobody uses except 
when thinking, is in continuous opera- 
tion. To carry the guess a little fur- 
ther we'll say that it may be located in 
the unknown four-fifths of your brain — 
at least, it doesn’t conform to any of 
the sensory wave responses that we 
know. We may be able to confirm that 
when the X-rays come through. We 
have a few crude methods for recogniz- 
ing subcortical activity, though we sel- 
dom find it.” 

Danny rubbed his head ruefully. “It 
hurts when it’s working, I’ll tell you 
that.” 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



“Naturally. You’re opening up new 
synapses that have never been used be- 
fore and that, for all we know, may still 
be in a very primitive state. It should 
be easier each time. But that’s not what 
we want to get at, basically. 

“Those individual synapses are just 
parts of two very general functions. 
ESP, extra-sensory perception, is the 
most commonly known one but PK, psy- 
chokinesis, is just as important. These 
are the fundamental abilities and the 
centers we have to locate. All the side 
effects, such as precognition and telep- 
athy, bear the same relationship to 
the basic psi faculties that symptons 
have to causes.’’ 

He broke off as an assistant entered 
the room quietly, carrying with him a 
small stack of films. “Ah,” Todd said. 
“Let’s take a look.” 

Danny took a look over Todd's shoul- 
der. “Those don’t look like any X-rays 
I ever saw before.” 

Todd chuckled. “They aren’t,” he said. 
“But we call them X-rays for conven- 
ience since this process hasn’t a name 
of its own yet. The shot we gave you was 
radio-ekacesium. It has an affinity for 
the subcortical Golgi bodies just as 
radio-iodine has an affinity for the cells 
of the thyroid gland. This set here was 
made after the second shot, which con- 
tained radio-silver — strictly cortical, but 
we can’t afford to miss any bets.” 

H E held the plates up to the lamp- 
shade one by one. Danny watched 
anxiously. 

“There’s some concentration here,” 
Todd muttered. “Hard to tell how it’s 
shaping up yet. But we’ll get it. Suppos- 
ing you come back tomorrow, Danny. 
I’ve got a little book-work to do. Then 
we’ll make a fresh attack.” 

“Do you think there s any hope?” 
“Hope ?” the parapsychologist explod- 
ed. “Great jumping grasshoppers, man, 
you bring me the first chance we’ve ever 
had to observe this What-Is-It we call 
the psi faculty directly and you ask me 
if there’s any hope ! Skin out of here be- 
fore I crown you.” 

Danny left, his head still full of the 
squares, stars, crosses, wavy lines and 
circles on Dr. Todd’s test cards. The re- 
sults were exciting, yet disappointingly 
inconclusive. Well, that was to be ex- 
pected. It was hard to imagine any nor- 
mal everyday agency, even one as 



27 

unorthodox as the parapsychology labs, 
coming to grips with the outlandish Un- 
knowns that were invading Danny’s 
mind. He was lucky Todd had got as far 
as he had. The man’s confidence, at least, 
was infectious. 

The Forteans were even less helpful, 
though friendly. The local branch of the 
Fortean Society had only a posLoffice 
box address; when he finally found 
them, it was by way of Who’s Who. 
Their local leader turned out to be Car- 
tier Taylor, a popular author, a man 
who had written so many colorful and 
occasionally acute thrillers that even. 
Danny had heard of him. Indeed, the 
Fortean group seemed to be crawling 
with writers of various calibres, most of 
whom were more impressed by their 
Master’s brilliant writing style than 
with his disordered metaphysical 
theories. 

Taylor was more than willing to load 
Danny up with half a hundred reports 
of wild talents of every conceivable 
kind. He had bins of them. But nothing 
he had to offer in the way of basic 
theories to account for them seemed bet- 
ter than idiotic. Indeed, he seemed to 
have a special bias for the idiotic. 

He viewed scientists-in-the-mass as a 
kind of priesthood and scientic method 
as a new form of mumbo- jumbo. It 
made him partial to astrology, hollow- 
earth notions, lemuria, pyramidology, 
Vedanta, black magic, Theosophy, per- 
sonal devils and a long list of similar 
asininities — the more asinine the better. 

Fort himself made exciting reading. 
Danny could see why writers loved him. 
He wrote in a continuous display of 
verbal fireworks and his attitude to- 
ward his world was a cosmic irony mid- 
way betwen Heine’s epigrams and the 
belly-laughs of the Ritz Brothers. 

But his explanations for the things 
he had observed and collated were de- 
liberately outrageous. Every now and 
then Danny found in the Fort books a 
glimmering trail toward something use- 
ful — and every time Fort took the data 
and stood them on their heads. 

A scientist with a lot of patience 
might have made something of Fort’s 
book on wild talents. But for Danny, 
with no scientific training and a des- 
perate need to know now what it was 
all about, there was nothing in it but 
an assurance that a lot of people had 
been in the same fix. 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



28 

That left only the Psychic Research 
Society. Danny had no idea what he 
expected to find there — a group of 
mediums perhaps, struggling to make 
their trade respectable — a quasi-reli- 
gious organization trying to prove sur- 
vival after death. 

He was totally unprepared to meet 
Sir Lewis Carter. He recognized the in- 
ternationally famous astrophysicist at 
once. His mismatched trousers and 
jacket, his calabash pipe with the 
meerschaum top, were almost as fa- 
miliar as trade-marks. 

“Don’t tell me you’re the boss of this 
outfit, sir?” Danny said. 

Sir Lewis inclined his iron-gray 
head. “More or less, young fella. 
What’s your problem?” 

Danny gave him a quick sketch, 
leaving out the flatly incredible parts. 
It was substantially the same story he 
had told Sean. Sir Lewis made no com- 
ment until he was through. 

“Have you seen anybody else about 
this?” he asked. 

“Just about everybody,” Danny said. 
“Even the Forteans and the Rhine peo- 
ple at the University.” 

S IR LEWIS dismissed the Rhine peo- 
ple with a wave of his pipe. “You 
got nothing out of that crowd, I’ll war- 
rant. They can’t seem to realize that 
you can’t handle things as delicate as 
psychic manifestations as if they were 
performing dogs. They have their own 
laws and they’re pretty stubborn about 
failing to show up except under special 
conditions.” 

“That seems reasonable to me,” Dan- 
ny said. “What I want to know mainly 
is how to control these — well, these 
powers. The way they keep popping up 
is uncomfortable. They’ve lost me my 
job and I suspect I’ll be in worse trou- 
ble before long.” 

And that, Danny thought, ought to 
win a medal for understatement! 

“I quite sympathize.” Sir Lewis said 
gravely. “What I suggest is that you 
stay here with us for observation. We 
can make you quite comfortable and 
have plenty of opportunity to study 
these manifestations as they occur. We 
have funds for that purpose so you 
needn’t worry about a job for awhile, 
and you’ll be — so to speak — off the 
street and thus out of any serious 
danger.” 



“That’s generous of you,” Danny 
said. “But unfortunately I have so 
many things to keep track of that I 
can’t risk it right now. Maybe later.” 
“Suit yourself,” Sir Lewis said. “Let 
me see, I have your address. I’ll send 
you some literature ; you may find some- 
thing useful there.” 

“Thanks,” Danny said again. 

He scanned a late paper on the sub- 
way. The indictment of International 
Wheat had made page one and the 
market had already slid three points. 
Dow- Jones experts were already worry- 
ing learnedly about a “penetration” — a 
break through the previous low point 
which usually indicated a general slump 
and a bearish market, perhaps even a 
crash. 

Proof! Danny was glad he’d mailed 
that letter. It was too late for him to 
pick up his earnings today but they’d 
come in handy Monday. But why hadn’t 
it worked at the races? It worried him. 

There was a small knot of people, 
mostly women, gathered in the apart- 
ment lobby when Danny arrived. One 
of them, a portly well-dressed man Dan- 
ny recognized in a double-take as his 
landlord, detached himself from the 
group and approached him. 

“Mr. Caiden, might I speak to you 
for a moment privately?” 

“Certainly,” Danny said. 

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask 
you to leave,” the landlord said the mo- 
ment they were in the stairwell. “I my- 
self regard myself as a broadminded 
man, but most of my tenants are middle 
class and rather censorious and do not 
regard the maintenance of young wom- 
en in bachelor apartments as an asset 
to the community.” 

It took Danny a moment to get the 
pompous sentence unwound. “Young 
women?” he echoed feebly. 

“I was called here this afternoon by 
Mrs. Emerson, of Eight-A, anent a dis- 
turbance centering around your apart- 
ment,” the landlord said. “As I have the 
story, and after eliminating points of 
conflict between the various versions, 
Mrs. Emerson observed a young lady 
leave a taxicab in front of the building 
and enter it. 

“Mrs. Emerson then heard your 
doorbell ring, after which — some min- 
utes after — the young lady was heard 
mounting the stairs and admitting her- 
self to your rooms with a key.” He 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



look a deep breath and belly-whopped 
into another sentence. 

“Later on the superintendent, who 
had been called out by phone to repair 
a leak — a nonexistent leak, 1 might add 
— reported a passkey missing. He at- 
tempted to inquire after it and was told 
by Mrs. Emerson — ” 

Danny had heard enough. He bound- 
ed up the stairs, leaving the landlord 
floundering in a welter of dependent 
clauses. Unaccountably his hand trem- 
bled, making the point of the key clat- 
ter against the lock. 

The girl was there all right. Danny 
slammed the door and bolted it. A mo- 
ment later the portly pompous ass out- 
side was pounding on the panel. 

“Twenty-four hours !” he shouted, 
syntax forgotten in his rage at being 
abandoned and shut out. “An eviction 
notice ! The law ! Respectable house ! 
Won’t have it! Do you hear?” 

“Yah,” Danny said. “I’ll leave. Beat 
it.” 

He glared at the girl, who sat in his 
favorite armchair, smoking one of the 
emperor-sized cigarettes he favored 
when he was alone. The glass tube it 
had come in lay beside her on the tele- 
phone table. She eyed Danny with cool 
amusement. 

“What are you doing here?” he 
growled. 

“Waiting for you,” she said. “And in 
case you’re wondering how I knew 
where you lived I heard you give your 
address to the cabby when you left my 
aunt’s place.” 

“What do you want of me? You’ve 
lost me ray apartment and I'm in 
enough trouble already.” 

“With your talents,” she said sweetly, 
“I’m sure you could conjure another 
one up out of nothing. And I’m going 
to be on the spot to see it done too. By 
the way, my name’s Marla.” 

“I’m Danny Caiden,” he said auto- 
matically. Then, “Like fun you are! 
You’re going to get out of here pronto 
or I’ll throw you out!” 

“No, you won’t,” Marla said. “I’ll 
scream. You’ll go to jail. That wouldn’t 
be nice.” 

H E glared at her. “What is this — a 
shakedown ? I haven’t any money.” 
“I don’t want your money. What 
you’ve got is worth more to me than 
money. I want to know how that trick 



29 

of yours was pulled — the way you 
threw the table and chair around. You 
did it without any previous preparation 
and in a place you’d never seen before. 
Nothing in Houdini’s book matches 
that. It’ll mow the suckers down in 
droves. What else can you do?” 

“If I stick my tongue out a certain 
way,” Danny said sardonically, “I can 
make a noise like a turtle-dove.” He 
demonstrated. “As for pitching your 
furniture around I’m beating my brains 
out trying to find out for myself how 
I do it. When I do I’ll practise by zip- 
ping your zipper up and down and 
tying granny knots in your shoelaces. 
Now will you go?” 

“Nope. I’m sticking until I find out 
how it’s done. You’re a very good liar, 
Danny, but I’ve seen better and I don’t 
believe in spirits.” 

Danny threw himself into the rock- 
ing chair, which he hated, and put his 
head in his hands. “What about your 
aunt?” he said finally. 

“That old harridan?” Marla laughed 
scornfuly. “She’ll never get any farther 
than she’s got now. She just uses the 
same old routines and won’t learn any- 
thing. I’m different. I know a brand 
new line when I see one and I don't 
mean to let go of it.” She scanned Dan- 
ny again, even more critically. “Even 
if I have to marry it.” 

Danny started up again, then sub- 
sided with a groan. If — 

Someone knocked sharply. “Go ’way,” 
Danny growled. “I told you I’d leave. 
Blow.” 

There was a short, puzzled silence. 
Then the knock came again. Evidently 
it wasn’t the landlord this time. Cau- 
tiously Danny shot back the bolt and 
peered out. 

The knocker wore a gray business 
suit and a gray fedora, and looked a 
little like an inefficient C. P. A. He said, 
“Mr. Caiden?” 

“That’s me.” 

“F.B.I.,” the knocker said, flopping 
his wallet open under Danny’s nose. 
The card in the wallet said the same 
thing. Silently Danny stepped back to 
let him in. 

“What’s the matter? Don’t tell me 
the landlord’s invoking the Mann Act 
now!” 

Marla giggled immodestly. 

“No, Mr. Caiden, I’m here on behalf 
of the Securities Exchange Commission. 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



30 

I expect you were too young to notice 
the twenty-nine crash, but we’re out to 
see that it doesn’t happen again. Smart 
operators who are out to make it hap- 
pen again get our deep-freeze treatment 
but quick.” 

“What makes you think I’m out to 
do that?” Danny asked carefully. 

“What you pulled today was sug- 
gestive to say the least,” the F.B.I. man 
said. He sat down calmly in the rocking 
chair and crossed his knees. He didn’t 
bother to take off his hat. It looked as 
if it had grown there. 

“Catching Wheat short on a com- 
pletely secret indictment is no mean 
trick even for a seasoned investor, let 
alone someone who’d never touched the 
market before. Even your broker ad- 
mitted he’d never heard of you.” 

“Circumstantial,” Danny said. “Have 
I committed a crime?” 

The F.B.I. man laughed gently. 
“Smart operators rarely commit overt 
crimes,” he said. "Sometimes we even 
have to tag them for violation of the 
Sherman Act. When we can’t do that 
we subpoena them as material wit- 
nesses.” 

“To what?” 

“Why, violation of the Sherman Act. 
Weren’t you listening?” 

Danny began to get it. Certainly the 
fact that the market had not fallen until 
the indictment had been announced of- 
ficially would indicate that the Attor- 
ney General’s office had succeeded in 
keeping it a secret right up until that 
time. 

The further fact that the drop had 
found one investor — himself — already 
undercutting the stock to the exact value 
of its depreciation would smell to the 
rest of the market and to the F.B.I. 
like deliberate panicking under orders 
from Wheat itself. Similar tactics had 
been used in the Zaharof and Insull 
scandals. 

But Danny, unlike Samuel Insull, 
wasn’t an old and repentant exile and 
couldn’t expect to get the sob-sister 
treatment from the papers. If it turned 
out that Wheat had actually planned 
any market manipulation, Danny would 
be flayed alive by the curb-market 
wolves. Precognition, it would appear, 
had blown another fuse. 

“Are you arresting me, then?” he 
said dully. 

“Temporarily. You’ve been subpoe- 



naed by a Grand Jury investigating 
collusion toward price-fixing, violation 
of FEC and SEC regulations and pos- 
sible violations of the Sherman Act as 
amended. You’re not technically arrest- 
ed but simply detained for questioning.” 
“What does that mean?” 

“It means that the Grand Jury will 
want to be able to reach you at this 
address. You’ll be allowed to retain 
counsel, and to live here until you’re 
called. That will be within a few days, 
so make sure you don’t leave the build- 
ing. If you do, you’ll wind up in a cell. 
We’ve already taken steps toward col- 
lecting your today’s earnings as bond.” 

D ANNY was speechless. The F.B.I. 

man stood up and looked at him, 
not unkindly. “It's not my function to 
call you guilty or innocent, Mr. Caiden,” 
he said. “You look all right, If you are, 
your best bet is to stay put. If you 
break bond the jury will take that as 
evidence of your guilt. 

“Stick around and fight it out. If 
you’re on the up-and-up you’ll come out 
all right. We’ll give you all the legal 
help we can. Frankly, I don’t see how 
a guy your age could be the evil genius 
the SEC thinks you are — you simply 
couldn’t have accumulated enough ex- 
perience. Stick tight and you’ll be 
cleared.” 

“Thanks,” Danny said numbly. 

He had been saying, "Thanks,” for 
the most varied favors lately. The door 
slammed. Marla got up and walked to 
the window and Danny gratefully re- 
claimed the big chair. 

It began to seem that he had spent 
his whole life sitting in that chair, won- 
dering what to do next. Right now that 
chair was as good as a cul-de-sac. He 
couldn’t leave and he couldn’t stay. 

Possibly the landlord would consider 
the F.B.I.’s reasons stronger than his — 
no, that way led to still more whis- 
pering among the neighbors. 

“Did you hear? That Mr. Caiden in 
Four-D had a woman in his apartment 
and now the F.B.I.’s after him! And 
such a nice looking young man, too!” 
Whispers like that had a way of at- 
tracting newspapermen — indeed, any 
leak from the F.B.I. itself would bring 
a horde of newsmen down upon him. 

He couldn’t stay. He had to see Todd, 
tomorrow. Also, he couldn’t leave. The 
Grand Jury had forbidden it. And the 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE t 



SEC had impounded his earnings. 

He felt like a rat in a maze, full of 
the desperation that leads inevitably 
to nervous collapse — drained of vitality 
by the strain of coping with the super- 
normal and its unpredictable effect 
upon normality. 

The psi faculty was growing in him, 
growing like any other exercised talent, 
with practise. Thus far, even Mme. 
Zaza had been right. But Danny re- 
membered the cut speech of a violin 
teacher who’d given him up in disgust 
twenty years ago. 

“Practise makes perfect,” he had 
said. “But it can also cut your throat.” 

All proverbs are Aristotelian; they 
make no sense without a modifying sec- 
ond clause. The violin teacher had had 
the goods. There was no point in prac- 
tising these wild talents if they were 
to lead only to a continuous chain of 
catastrophes. 

Marla turned and looked down at 
him, and there was something oddly 
gentle in her regard. “You are in a jam, 
aren’t you?” she said. “It looks like 
Marla has backed the wrong horse.” 

“The window is still open,” Danny 
said listlessly. “Go get your bet back and 
go home.” 

She shook her head. “You can’t get 
rid of me now, Danny. I've even got a 
good moral reason for staying, now that 
I see you’re really in trouble. I like 
long odds. When they pay off, they pay 
like crazy.” 

“Urn,” Danny said. “I don’t warm to 
all this horse imagery. I've had my — ” 

He shut his mouth with an audible 
snap and sat up. “Wait a minute. Todd 
said that Rhine had shown increases of 
accuracy with the numbers of things 
handled.” 

“What? I don’t get it—” 

“You don’t have to. You’re staying? 
All right, you can be useful. How much 
money do you have?” 

She stiffened with mock alarm. “Wait 
a minute, Junior. You’re talking to 
Marla now. She’s a smart girl, remem- 
ber? No ponies — that’s flat.” 

He hardly heard her. “Large num- 
bers of identical objects, that’s the 
ticket. Not horses — they’re all unique 
combinations. But dollar bills. We won’t 
fuss with the actual outcome of races 
— that’s a stiff problem in vector an- 
alysis, whether you go about it parapsy- 
chologically or normally. We can stick 



St 

to the flow of the money across the bet- 
ting counters.” 

“You talk nonsense.” 

“I do?” He grinned ironically at her. 
“You wanted to learn how I work, 
didn’t you? Well, here’s your chance.” 
He dug out all his remaining bills and 
gave them to her. “Stick that in your 
purse if you’ve got one. Add whatever 
you have to it. We won’t need the 
racing forms or the names of individual 
horses for this trick. Let’s see — ” 

H E stopped and stared blindly out 
the window, remembering that 
spinning of the minute billions over the 
surfaces of his brain. A second later 
the memory had merged with reality 
and his head was buzzing with pain. 
He didn’t care. He groped for a pencil, 
hit the washstand instead and latched 
onto a piece of soap. With a corner of 
this he scribbled figures on the window- 
pane. 

“Pay your bets in that order on any 
horses that show odd-chains in this 
order. When you get a return of 
eighteen to one on the fourth bet you 
made repeat the sixth bet twice. Then 
the first bet, then wait for a two-to-one 
return on the ninth bet and — ” 

The girl had found the pencil, mois- 
tened the end of it and was rubbing the 
figure-chain on the window into the 
fabric of her handkerchief. “I’m not a 
moron, I can follow the numbers. I 
don’t know why I’m doing this, you un- 
derstand, but it’s a cinch it isn’t love.” 
She stuffed Danny’s money into her 
purse and slipped out the door. Briefly 
Danny wondered if he’d ever see her 
again, decided that the present take 
was too small to satisfy her and forgot 
her at once in pawing frantically 
through the library books he had 
brought home. 

Tyrrell’s Science and Psychical Phe- 
nomena he discarded at once. It was 
jammed with important information 
but little of it was germane to the im- 
mediate problem. The new Rhine book 
he had already read and besides he 
could depend upon Todd to handle that 
end of the business. Littleton’s Our Sw- 
perconscious Mind gave him one case 
history which he read with fanatic in- 
tensity and several more which applied 
marginally to what he was seeking. 

It was Dunne's Experiment With 
Time which finally put him on the track. 




32 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



He nearly turned a handspring when he 
hit the crucial chapter, for he had come 
near to missing the work altogether. 
Only the fact that he had seen a dis- 
cussion of Dunne in Priestly’s popular 
Midnight on the Desert had put him 
onto the man at all. 

The last two books were both by 
Ouspenskii — the Tertium Organum and 
A New Model of the Universe. He had 
come to these too by a roundabout and 
utterly unscientific way. A book review 
of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets had 
mentioned the latter and curiosity had 
later impelled him to buy the first. Now 
both were paying off. 

He snatched up the phone and nearly 
yelled Todd’s home phone number at 
the operator. After a while Todd’s voice 
answered, very sleepily. A second later 
his voice was crackling with excite- 
ment. 

"Wait a minute, Danny, take it 
slowly. You read all those books just 
in the last hour?” 

"No, not all of them, just most of 
them and anyhow I didn’t read them, 
I just looked through them. But I’m 
sure I’ve got it.” 

"So am I. I know those books well. 
If you got all that out in an hour you 
must have looked through them as 
thoroughly as a thousand-volt X-ray. 
Does you head ache?” 

“Why — yes. Pretty badly, now that 
you mention it.” 

Todd chuckled unsympathetically. “I 
thought so. Another subcortical area 
come into play. You didn’t read those 
books at all — you printed their contents 
on your memory by ESP, and didn’t 
even know you were doing it. All right, 
Danny, I’ll be over at once. Have you 
got a pencil handy?” 

Danny made a brief frantic search 
of his pockets, then remembered that 
Marla had taken the pencil with her. 
He took the phone over to the dark win- 
dow and picked up the scrap of soap. 

"Shoot.” 

Rapidly Todd read off a list of equip- 
ment. Danny scrawled it on the panes. 
"I’ll bring the rest. Your horse trick 
should pay off. If it doesn’t I’ll send a 
truck to the University and ship their 
stuff in. But if we can buy it new it’ll 
help.” 

"Heisenberg?” 

"Exactly. In physics the equipment 
effects the results. In paraphysics the 



experimenter affects the equipment. 
Let’s not waste time talking about it on 
the phone, Danny — we may have the 
whole answer before morning!” 



CHAPTER V 
The Serial Universe 



ANNY put the phone back into its 
cradle and rifled his desk for an- 
other pencil. It didn’t seem to contain 
another but he did find a 27c bail-point 
pen which he had previously decided 
would write only under water. He had 
just finished copying the list off the 
windowpanes when the door was kicked 
open and Marla came in. Her pocket- 
book bulged like a pregnant sow and 
the pockets of her dress made bumps 
all over her. 

"I’m sold,” she said. “And without a 
racetrack open anywhere in this part 
of the country too. I just put the money 
down and followed your figures and — ” 
"Never mind the details. I’ve got an- 
other job for you. Take all the dough 
out again to Otto Meiner’s.” 

"What’s that?” 

"It’s a scientific supply house at the 
corner of Edgerton and Fifth across 
the river. They’ll be closed, but they 
have an emergency bell. Tell them Dr. 
Todd from the University sent you. His 
secretary will confirm it. When they let 
you in buy everything on this list.” 
Marla glared at him, her bosom tax- 
ing the severe tailored jacket. “Do you 
mean to send me across the river at 
this time of night?” she demanded. 
"Don’t you know there’s only one ferry 
running?” 

"Certainly I know it,” Danny 
snapped. "I didn’t ask you here in the 
first place. If you want to learn any- 
thing from me you’ll earn it. Oh — and 
leave me about half of that bankroll. 
You won’t need any more.” 

"Scrooge! All right — here. If I catch 
my death of cold I’ll haunt you.” 

She went out again. This time Danny 
had nothing to do but sit and sweat it 
out. His researches with the books had 
reached the limits of his knowledge. 
Now it was up to Todd to make it work. 

The long waiting period gave him 
plenty of time to remember that he 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Drug 
stores had all been closed for half an 
hour but after five phone calls he found 
a bar that was willing to send up half 
a dozen liverwurst-on-ryes. Then he sat 
down in the big chair again and chewed 
distractedly on the balky pen. 

Todd, the equipment and the sand- 
wiches all arrived at once. The equip- 
ment arrived in a two-and-a-half-ton 
truck with Marla perched on its rear, 
swinging her shapely legs over the tail- 
gate. Todd watched her from the soap- 
scrawled window while Danny doled 
out his silver to the boy from the bar. 

“Is that your girl, Danny? She’s a 
pretty thing.” 

“I never saw her before today," Dan- 
ny said, chewing busily. “But I can 
safely say that she’s become attached 
to me. She thinks I’m a charlatan and 
wants to find out how I do it.” 

Todd smiled. “Well, with luck she’ll 
find out — providing she can understand 
it. Hello, here’s the first instalment.” 
The driver stood patiently while Todd 
read the markings on the crate. “That’s 
the resonator. Better put that on the 
bed. I want to assemble it in a chain of 
steps and there won’t be enough room 
on the table.” 

Marla came in with a smaller pack- 
age, breathing heavily and glaring 
bloody murder at Danny. “What’ll I do 
with this?” 

“Put it on the desk for the moment. 
Marla, this is Dr. Todd from the Uni- 
versity. Relax and have a sandwich. 
We're going to be up all night." 

“I’m already resigned to it,” the girl 
sighed. She watched interestedly while 
Todd and Danny unpacked the enceph- 
alograph. A small transformer was 
plugged into a wall socket and from it 
Todd skillfully rigged a bewildering 
network of step-down leads. 

The last item in from the truck was 
the biggest — an operating chair, such 
as surgeons use for working on the 
brain. It looked very much like a bar- 
ber’s chair — or did until Todd rigged 
the encephalograph to it. Rewiring the 
standard lie-detector took longer and no 
nolice technician would have recognized 
it when Todd was through with it. 

“That’ll do for a start,” Todd said 
finally. “Now, before we start, Danny, 
let’s get the record straight on this 
telekinetic trick. Tell me just what the 
sensation was.” 



33 

Danny explained as well as he could 
the whirling sensation. When he got to 
the levitation of the table Todd’s eyes 
sparkled. 

“That’s the Blackett effect,” he said. 
“You cut down the gravitic moment of 
the individual atoms.” 

“Then the whirling things — ” 

“Electrons. I think we won’t need to 
use a bit of this equipment to give you 
full conscious control of PK at least. All 
we need to do is to implant conscious 
understanding of the physical process 
in your cortex and the last connection 
will be opened.” He scribbled rapidly 
and shoved the paper under Danny's 
nose. “Here, look at this.” 

The paper said: G=(2CP/BU)*. 
Danny looked at it. 

“I don’t feel any different,” he con- 
fessed. 

“Do you know what magnetic mo- 
ment is?” 

Danny tried to remember his college 
physics. “Let’s see— it’s the product of 
the strength of a magnetic charge 
times the distance between the poles.” 

“Right. That’s P in our equation. 
U stands for angular momentum, and 
G and C are the usual universal con- 
stants. Now if you'll remember that 
every electron is a tiny electromagnet 
and figure B is an uncertainty correc- 
tion amounting to about point twenty- 
five—” j 

S UDDENLY Danny saw it. The fig- 
ures, really, didn’t matter. It was 
the relationship that counted. 

Todd, watching him closely, sug- 
gested, “Move something.” 

The cake of soap, which had been 
leading a remarkably adventurous life 
during the past three hours, shot off the 
windowsill, smashed against the op- 
posite wall and dropped into the in- 
nards of the resonator on the bed. Part 
of it remained sticking to the wallpaper. 

“Take it easy,” Todd said, laughing. 
“You’ll gain control with practise.” 
“What I still don’t understand,” Dan- 
ny said, “is how I do it. Just under- 
standing the process can’t be enough — 
it takes an actual expenditure of energy 
to move something, whether you use 
PK or just pick it up and give it the 
old-fashioned heave-ho.” 

“You’re expending energy, Danny,” 
Todd said calmly. “And plenty of it. 
PK is one of the highest forms of ac- 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



94 

tivitjr of the human brain and you’ll 
find it extremely tiring if you keep at 
it for long stretches. The electrons 
you’re affecting are you own, in the 
cells of your brain. You project the 
resultant field onto the object you want 
to move.” 

Danny turned his head suddenly and 
looked at Marla. She was standing by 
the door watching him with wide eyes. 
She had one fist crammed in her mouth. 

"What’s the matter, Marla? Isn’t this 
what you wanted to see? Does it scare 
you?” 

"You bet it does,” she said. “It just 
hit me that you weren’t kidding when 
ou said you didn’t fake this business. 

don’t like it. It isn’t natural.” 

“Certainly it’s natural,” Todd scoffed. 
"All right, Danny, climb in the chair 
and we’ll get started on ESP. I warn 
you that will be harder because we’ve 
good reason to suppose that it’s partly 
nonphysical.” He filled a syringe from 
a rubber-capped vial. “Roll up your 
sleeve and we’ll get going.” 

“What are you going to do?” Marla 
said warily. 

"Dunne’s idea,” Todd said, smearing 
Danny’s temples with gray salve, “is 
that the activity of the psi mechanism 
is that of an infinitely overlapping 
group of Fourier functions in which 
the nervous impulses play the part of 
dynamical variables.” 

“Hey, take it easy. Give it to me in 
English.” 

Danny smiled. “In essence, my notion 
is that the unused part of the brain 
doesn’t share the one-way time orienta- 
tion that governs the cerebral cortex,” 
he explained. 

"That way of looking at time is just 
a habit really since all events — past 
and future — exist together. They don’t 
just flash into being in some mythical 
present and then flash out of existence 
again when present becomes past. I 
think the psi mechanism senses that 
and can act upon it directly, while the 
cortex is blinded to it by pre-scientific 
ways of looking at things.” 

The girl thought about it. “If I make 
any sense out of that at all,” she said 
finally, “you’re saying that all events 
are predestined.” 

"That’s the cortical way of looking 
at it. If you’re going to insist on think- 
ing in those terms, then I suppose you’ll 
have to call it predestination. But it’s 



not a rigid, linear series like beads on 
a string. 

“Dunne envisages an infinite series 
of overlapping event levels, every one 
of them keyed by some sort of decision- 
point. Plenty of room for operation of 
free will, you see, if you have to be com- 
forted by such an essentially meaning- 
less concept.” 

"Ouch !” Marla said ruefully. “I can’t 
help it if I'm a layman. Is it all right 
if I think of it as a big pile of movie 
films, with the frames all overlapping 
each other a little bit and the leading 
character shifting from picture to pic- 
ture at will?” 

"A very good way to think of it,” 
Todd said gravely, snapping the en- 
cephalograph electrodes into the gray 
goo. “I’m none too sure of your Poisson- 
brackets anyhow, Danny I think we 
might better make the assumption that 
your impulse-groups correspond to 
Heisenberg’s ‘probability packets.' Mar- 
ia’s analogy would apply better there 
too.” 

“Whatever you like,” Danny agreed. 
“That’s what we’ve got to find out. What 
Todd wants to do, Marla, is to localize 
the psi centers in the brain and put 
them under conscious control. That’s 
what all this apparatus is for.” 

The encephalograph hummed softly. 
On a slowly revolving drum a kymo- 
graph stylus wrote a complicated trace. 
Todd looked at it critically. 

“What are you doing, trying to com- 
pose a limerick?” he asked. “Relax, 
Danny, I can’t make anything out of 
that.” 

Danny closed his eyes and tried to 
think of nothing at all. Since he was 
conscious he could not, of course, suc- 
ceed completely. But he managed to 
empty his mind of everything but fugi- 
tive images over which he had no 
control. 

“That’s better,” Todd said. “Just 
hold that a minute. All right. Now 
shift that chunk of soap again. No, no, 
don’t visualize it, I don’t want the trace 
messed up with sub-optical activity. 
Just lift the soap.” 

“How can I without visualizing it?” 

"You don’t have to visualize it. Your 
psi mechanism is in direct physical con- 
tact with it. Now relax again All right, 
hoist!” 

Danny hoisted. Todd grunted with 
satisfaction and Danny’s eyes popped 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



open involuntarily. The soap dropped 
back again. 

Todd was holding an X-ray plate just 
over his forehead. 

"Don’t be impatient. I want to get 
plates from the side too.” 

He put Danny through the procedure 
again, then slipped the plates into the 
sink and covered them with a scatter- 
rug. 

"You haven’t any fluid in your de- 
veloping bath,” Marla said. 

“I don’t need fluid. There’s an am- 
monia-soaked sponge in there. Those are 
xerograms — dry-plates.” Todd strapped 
the converted lie-detector into position. 

“Now, Marla, let’s be tee-totally quiet 
for an hour or bo. Every word you say 
registers on Danny’s mind and makes 
the kymograph wiggle and we don’t 
need that kind of data. This is the 
crucial stage.” 

T HE hour stretched into two, then 
to three. Marla was frankly and 
unequivocally asleep in the armchair. 
Danny, his conscious mind hypnotized 
into near-trance by the deliberate mo- 
notony of Todd’s methods, slumped in 
the surgical chair and watched dully 
while the scientist studied the latest of 
the interminable series of plates. 

On the one that Danny could see 
there was a pattern that looked like 
the bursting of a skyrocket. It seemed 
to satisfy Todd profoundly. There was 
an air of sternly suppressed excitement 
about him. 

"Danny.” 

"Urn?” 

“The Fourier idea was right after all. 
It looks to me as if the whole center is 
in operation now. But there still aren’t 
any impulse traces through to the cor- 
tex. I want you to see how much of an 
event-series you can pick up, say, five 
minutes from now. Anything at all— 
my movements in the room or anything 
that might be going on in the street.” 
"Aw ri — ” Danny struggled to get 
out of his semi-stupor. Todd’s glance 
shot to the kymograph drum. “Don’t” 
he said sharply. “Stay relaxed. I want 
your cortex cut out as far as possible.” 
Danny slumped obediently. After a 
moment there were dim shapes super- 
imposed upon the familiar geography 
of the room. 

“Getting something. No movement.” 
"Probably just one 'frame,’ to use 



86 

Marla’s term. See if you can spread the 
reference-point.” 

Without conscious volition the dim 
figures began to move. At the same time 
a section of the street outside, including 
a sizable section of the nine apartments 
below, became directly sensible. It was 
an odd feeling for which no words ex- 
isted. 

He felt a vague sense of alarm. 

“I’m estanning — ” he said automat- 
ically. 

"You’re what?” 

“I didn’t mean that. Something I don’t 
like here, Dr. Todd. There are more peo- 
ple in the room than I can account for 
and there’s a car downstairs with two 
more in it. Some kind of a fracas.” 

Todd watched the converted lie- 
detector like a spectacled hawk. "Go 
on.” 

“I’ve lost it. No, wait — a couple of 
these birds have guns. There it goes 
again.” He opened his eyes and sat for- 
ward in the chair, fully awake now. 
“What do you make of that?” 

“Nothing I like,” Todd said grimly. 
“Any way of localizing the time?” 

"Marla will still be here. So will you, 
I think. But I couldn’t get it clearly. 
Identities were all shuffled.” 

Below, a car purred to a stop at th<> 
curb. With a quick sweep of his hand, 
Todd vanked the light cord from its 
socket, plunging the room into darkness. 
Danny pulled the electrodes from his 
head and wrists and went over to the 
window. 

“Already,” he murmured. “See — that 
first bird’s got a Tommy gun. Something 
tells me my manipulations have blown 
the all-time fuse. I wish I had a gun.” 

Todd shook Marla. 

“Get up, girl. Quick. Danny, show her 
where your closet is and make her hide 
in it.” 

“What’s up?” the girl said sleepily. 

"Trouble,” Danny said. “Come over 
here, Marla, and get in. Not a peep out 
of you no matter what you hear.” 

The doorbell rang, the sharp sound 
making them all jump. “Let ’em get in 
by themselves,” Danny said grimly. 
"Hadn’t we better make some of this 
equipment safe?” 

"Too late and not necessary,” Todd 
summarized tersely. “Damn! Another 
five minutes and we’d have had the 
whole story on record. Let them stumble 
over the stuff and tangle in the spaghet- 




36 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 

ti." There were fumbling sounds. In cephalograph and sat down in its ruins. 



the dim glow, Danny could see the sci- 
entist hefting the small heavy trans- 
former. A blow from a corner of that 
could crack the toughest skull. Danny 
grinned, picked up a chair and stationed 
himself beside the door. 

“Caiden?” a quiet, rasping voice said. 
Danny didn’t answer. “We know you’re 
in there. We mean business. Open up or 
we'll spray the room.” 

D ANNY hesitated. He had no idea 
what the men outside wanted 
with him; but he knew he didn’t dare 
take any chances. Machine-gun bullets 
would surely go through the closet door 
as well — it was directly in the line of 
fire. 

“All right,” he said. “Hold on.” 

He unlocked the door and swung it 
open. 

A powerful flashlight beam flooded 
the room, catching Todd flatfooted. 

“Hello, grampa. Give us some light 
here and snap to it.” 

Grudgingly Todd plugged the light 
cord back in. Three men came in, two of 
them prodding Danny back and taking 
stations where they could cover the 
whole room. One of them was the 
waiter Danny had seen in the bookie 
joint. 

“Well, well,” the waiter said. “This 

S iy was in Joe’s place yesterday, boss, 
e must of been casing us.” 

“Where’s the girl?” the man with 
the flashlight said. 

“What girl?” 

“Your runner. We traced her here 
after that mess she made of the pari- 
mutuels tonight.” 

“She’s gone home," Danny said. 
“She’s just a messenger.” 

The man with the flashlight consid- 
ered it, his eyes roving over the scatter- 
ed equipment. 

After a moment he bent curiously 
over the plates on the table. 

At the same moment Todd threw the 
transformer and flung himself flat on 
the floor. A Tommy gun clattered on the 
boards, its owner toppling like a felled 
tree. 

Danny kicked the man with the flash- 
light expertly and with great force and 
threw himself in a flying tackle at the 
remaining gunman. 

There was a crash of glass as the 
headman lunged, flailing, into the en- 



Danny had no chance to keep track of 
him. The man he had tackled, unable 
to shoot, was clubbing him furiously 
with the butt of the gun. Danny heaved 
and brought him down. 

There was a rush of heavy shoes be- 
hind him and then somebody grabbed 
his arms and threw him away. At least 
three more men had come in, evidently 
from posts outside the door. Danny be- 
latedly threw the newly-mastered PK 
into gear and sent the fallen gun hur- 
tling straight at the nearest one. 

The man’s mouth dropped open. 
He was too startled to duck. Todd 
writhed in the grip of a gorilla at least 
twice his size, kicking him hard in the 
shins. The man winced, but held on, 
swearing luridly. A moment later and 
there were two of them kneeling on 
Danny. A muzzle ground into the small 
of his back. 

He got his water tumbler and a heavy 
dictionary into action. 

“Quit throwin’ stuff around,” the 
rasping voice panted. “I don’t care how 
you do it but the next thing takes off 
by itself I’ll blow you in two.” 

The sentence was scrambled but its 
meaning was all too clear. Danny sub- 
sided obediently and the assorted ob- 
jects he had had whistling around the 
room dropped inertly to the floor. 

“What’ll we do with the old geezer, 
boss ?” 

“Truss him up and stick him in the 
closet. This guy’s the smart joker that’s 
been the cause of the trouble. Use some 
of that there wire.” 

The gorilla wound Todd with wire 
until he resembled an electronic age 
mummy. When he opened the closet 
door, Danny’s umbrella slammed over 
his head. 

“Cripes, another one ! Grab her, 
Tooey. So you didn’t go home after all, 
sister? Wire her up, Tooey.” 

Bound and gagged, Todd and Marla 
were stood in opposite corners of the 
closet and the door closed in their faces. 
Danny tried to project some kind of 
reassurance but any telepathic bump 
he might have had obstinately refused 
to function. 

"All right, let’s beat it. People live 
in these kind of joints is awful nosey — 
one of ’em’ll of called the cops by now." 

Something nudged Danny’s ribs. 
“March.” 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 37 



CHAPTER VI 
Tether’s End 



F OR the first twenty minutes Danny 
concentrated carefully upon mark- 
ing the course the heavy car took 
through the early morning darkness. 
The few scraps of conversation ex- 
changed by his captors only served to 
c nfirm the first impression. 

They were hired hoods, most of them, 
under the leadership of small-time 
gamblers attached to a syndicate. No 
purpose would be served by learning to 
tell these small fry apart. The identity 
of the man he was being taken to see 
might be a matter of more importance. 

The car had just swung onto the up- 
per reaches of the Kingsway Bridge 
when Danny realized that no attempt 
was being made to confuse him. Thus 
far he could plot their course from thp 
apartment as easily as if he had left a 
chalk-line. They had followed the quick- 
est and most direct route out of the city, 
the same one the Chamber of Com- 
merce recommended to visitors. The 
lesson was plain. They didn’t expect 
Danny to come back. 

Five minutes away from the bridge 
the car shot up a long gravel drive and 
pulled up. The house that was their 
destination was long and low and could 
have been anything from a roadhouse to 
a luxurious country home. Danny was 
hustled around to the back without be- 
ing given a chance to see the main 
building. 

“Here he is, chief,” the man called 
Tooey said. Danny was shoved roughly 
into a small, thickly carpeted room, 



most of which was taken up by a heavy 
glass-topped desk. The man behind the 
desk was expensively dressed but unim- 
pressive. Danny had never seen him be- 
fore. 

“Shut the door, Tooey. What’s your 
name, you?” 

“Caiden. What’s yours?” 

“I’m asking the questions,” the man 
behind the desk said. “Tooey, are you 
sure this is the guy?” 

“Yeah. We found the girl that passed 
the money hidin’ in his closet. And him 
and an old geezer tried to jump us.” 
“The way you guys came at them 
that wouldn’t prove nothing.” 

“Murph says the guy was in Joe’s this 
afternoon, casing the joint,” Tooey said 
sulkily. “He’s the guy, all right.” 
“Look,” Danny said. “I’m a law-abid- 
ing citizen or I was until you guys 
snatched me. Now I’m violating my 
bond. I don’t know what cause you’ve 
got to be mad at me — I didn’t do any- 
thing in Joe’s but lose all my dough.” 
“No? Maybe not. But what you did 
tonight was pretty tricky. You won’t get 
away with playing dumb, Mr. Caiden. 
No one but a guy who knew to the 
last dollar how we had things rigged 
could have loused us up the way you 
did. Hell, I know exactly how every 
race is going tomorrow but even know- 
ing that I couldn’t have ruined the 
odds the way you did. 

“I figure you cost the syndicate about 
twenty-five grand.” He crossed his 
arms on the glass and leaned forward. 
"And I know what your take was, too. 
Forty-five hundred fish, that’s all. Less 
than a fifth of what you could of made 
by playing with us instead of against 
us. Who are you working for?” 
"Myself,” Danny said. 

[ Twrn page ] 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



33 

“Don’t give me that. Nobody who 
knows the score is going to take a fifth 
of the kitty instead of the whole busi- 
ness. And no one man could beat down 
the odds no matter what he knew. He’d 
have to have touts and. markers. Who’s 
paying you to louse us up? Who’s your 
boss ?” 

Danny shrugged. “I don’t have any 
boss.’’ 

The man’s eyes became still harder. 
“If you want me to swallow that you’ll 
have to prove it. If you did all this by 
yourself you got a system.” 

"You could call it that.” 

The racketeer smiled gently. “Ex- 
plain it,” he said. 

For a moment the two men looked at 
each other. Then Danny smiled back. 

“All right,” he said. “It’s not diffi- 
cult — when you know how. In dealing 
with the mass behaviour of any indefi- 
nitely large numbers of similar objects 
—such as electrons or dollar bills — 
Hie old Hamiltonian laws of periodic 
motion don't apply. That is, the vari- 
ables don’t follow the commutative mul- 
tiplication law. 

“In plain language, if you ignore the 
horses and concentrate on the dough, 
you can describe its motion as a prob- 
lem in matrix mechanics — not as a trig 
series the way an actuary would go 
about it. You can’t follow any individ- 
ual dollar but you can say that its posi- 
tion in the betting order can be de- 
scribed at any point as a table of inte- 
ger differences between value-terms — ” 

“Tooey,” the man behind the desk 
said. A stunning blow caught Danny 
just behind the left temple. He lurched 
to one knee, his head ringing painfully. 

“Now perhaps we understand each 
other,” the man behind the desk said. 
“I know all the kinds of double-talk 
there are, Caiden. A guy once tried to 
talk me into buying an actuarial sys- 
tem. Now suppose you tell me who it is 
you’re working for.” 

Danny shook his head. The sharp, 
agonizing ringing continued. The voice 
of the man behind the desk seemed 
doubled, somehow, the second section 
arriving just behind the first like the 
pay cars of a crack train. The second 
section was saying, “This is a new one. 
Wise guy, too. Maybe Joe’s, — no, he 
hasn’t the nerve. This guy the boss? 
No such luck. Sweat it out of him be- 
fore— ” 



H E lifted his eyes and looked at the 
man behind the desk through a 
fog of pain. The queer, jerky mono- 
logue continued though the man’s 
mouth was shut. Danny recognized the 
pain then and it made him sick with 
hope. Could such a simple thing as a 
knock on the head have turned the 
trick? With the psi centers in a state 
of excitation from the radio-ekacesium 
it was possible. Cautiously he reached 
out for Tooey’s mind. 

Tooey could hardly be said to have a 
mind. He had an intricate delicately- 
balanced complex of glandular states, 
capable of being triggered in any di- 
rection by the slightest thalamic dis- 
turbance. But his cortical thoughts, 
when he had any, were of about the 
same calibre as the speeches in the bal- 
loons of comic strips. The stream of 
consciousness of the man behind the 
desk was of a considerably higher or- 
der but it had its own instabilities. 
There was fear of deposition in every 
impulse of it. 

“Speak up, you. I don’t want to miss 
my breakfast. I got business.” 

“Joe,” Danny said thickly, strug- 
gling back to his feet. “I didn't mean 
any harm. Honest.” 

“Who gives you the figures?” 

Danny thought fast. “I get 'em by 
mail,” he said. “I have to go down to 
Joe’s to check when I take ’em in to be 
sure there’s no mistake. I don’t see him. 
I just make bets like anybody else and 
he sends me word.” 

“How?” 

“By my wins and losses. If they 
check out the letter was okay and I go 
ahead and — ” 

“All right. Tooey, take him out.” 
The gorilla’s hand descended on 
Danny’s shoulder. The telephone on the 
desk shrilled. Danny could feel the 
adrenal surge of alarm through the nar- 
row corridors of Tooey’s brain, and the 
instant hair-trigger adjustment of the 
man behind the desk. 

Tooey's was the usual stupid reaction 
to any modern news-carrying system — 
the news was always bad to such a 
mind because it was new and hence al- 
ways unexpected. For the man behind 
the desk any change might easily be an 
improvement. Neither attitude was 
sane but the boss’ was at least human. 
“Yeah?” 

The voice of the man on the phone 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



came to Danny a little late, rebroadeast 
through the filtering reflexes of the in- 
tervening mind. “Boss, there's heavy 
cars on the road. Not cops but some 
kind of raid, looks like. Looks like the 
Pinks.” 

“Drop the shutters and wait for 

em. 

“But, boss, there’s about five guys 
outside and the guards — ” 

“Drop the shutters. They took the 
guard posts as the easy jobs. Let ’em 
learn different.” He hung up. “All right, 
Tooey, stash him: — what you waiting 
for? The Pinks are here.” 

"Cripes!” Tooey said. He wrenched 
Danny around and propelled him 
through the door. A moment after it 
had shut there was a metallic brang 
all through the low building. Armor- 
plate, Danny guessed. 

The corridor was empty and not very 
well lit. Danny’s searching brain found 
the ends of Tooey’s necktie, flipped 
them over the gorilla’s shoulders and 
strangled him with such indecent haste 
that his head fell straight along his 
back before his body had struck the 
floor. 

Danny prowled away from it without 
looking back. He bore the poor animal 
no grudge for the blow to his temple 
but he eould hardly regret the snuffing 
out of so feeble an intelligence. And if 
the Pinkertons were closing in, Danny 
didn’t want to be found here. 

There was no way out on the ground 
floor. The closer Danny came to the 
exits the more he was buffeted by 
hunched shadows carting weapons to 
prepared emplacements. The fallen 
steel curtains would no more pass 
Danny than they would pass the raiding 
Pinks. He found a stair-well and 
climbed it. On the second floor — actually 
only a furnished attic — tense figures 
were already crouching in the pre-f abri- 
cated machine-gun nests of dormer win- 
dows. There was no way out. 

No way out — Danny’s head throbbed 
violently. For a crazed moment he won- 
dered if the radioactive stuff Todd had 
given him were destroying his mind. 
Then a lowering shape swung on him 
and the dim attic quivered and snapped 
out of existence. 

***** 

For a long time Danny lay where he 
was, the brambles piercing his clotheB 



39 

and scratching at his face and scalp as 
he breathed. His head hurt horribly and 
he was soaking wet all along one side. 
Distantly guns chattered in the dark- 
ness and the odor of decaying leaves 
was in his nostrils. 

Finally he was awake enough to 
wonder where he was. He sat up, his 
head hammering with every motion. He 
lay sprawled on one elbow until the cold 
wetness became intolerable, then got 
to his feet. Trees swayed all around 
him. 

Without knowing why he began to 
stumble away from the sounds of gun- 
fighting. Behind his eyes a multitude 
of voices murmured things that made 
no sense. 

He reached out for Marla — but that 
made the murmuring louder and at the 
same time more indistinct. 

T HE trees whispered, too. The whole 
world was a chiaroscuro of whis- 
pers and shadows. He began to run. 

The sight of the city helped to bring 
back the things he needed to know. Ha 
stood on the edge of the scrub forest, 
weaving drunkenly, and looked at the 
haloed lights. Behind him the sounds of 
battle diminished. 

I’m out. It’s like my dream of float- 
ing. I got out but I don’t know how. 

He began to stagger toward the city. 
His mind was dead, drained of every- 
thing but the basic impulse to live. The 
psi faculties, ill-understood and unde- 
pendable, had burned out. Danny re- 
membered only dimly Todd’s warning 
of quick fatigue — and nothing he had 
found would explain why he had been 
snapped like a pebble from a sling, 
from tension to the swamps of trance. 

And Todd was helpless now, trussed 
with his own wire in a stuffy closet, all 
his work come to nothing. The psi power 
was gone, evaporating into chill mists. 

The nightmare remained. There was 
no longer any refuge now that the psi 
power had burned out unless — 

Wait. There was still Sir Lewis 
Carter. If there was one man in the 
world to whom the truth, whatever it 
was, would seem neither daring nor 
incredible — that man was Sir Lewis 
Carter. He had spent most of his life 
exploring areas of experience at which 
most scientists only laughed. 

He had risked a substantial reputa- 
tion to explore the marches of the 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



40 

psychic continuum. He had survived 
the gibes of the press and the attacks 
of less imaginative men in his own 
field with equal determination, even 
with aplomb. 

There was at least a haven at the 
Psychic Research Society. Carter could 
hide him, at least long enough for him 
to get some rest. 

Danny shuffled his uncertain way 
through the stubble. 



CHAPTER VII 
The Adepts 



W HEN Danny awoke he felt rest- 
ed, but he was stiff all over. Late 
afternoon sunlight was streaming in 
upon him through a tiny barred win- 
dow. The bars were the criss-cross kind 
common to the first floors of brown- 
stone houses though the window did 
not seem to be on the ground floor. 

The chrome-steel grating that served 
for a door certainly was not common to 
brownstones. Danny stared at it, blink- 
ing. Now what — had he passed out and 
been picked up by the F. B. I.? 

But he could clearly remember stum- 
bling up the front steps of the Psychic 
Research Society’s place. He could re- 
member as well his sensation of sur- 
prise as the door opened while he was 
reaching for the handle. Also he could 
remember seeing Sir Lewis Carter and 
hearing his deep friendly voice say, 
“Come in, my boy. We were just talk- 
ing about you.” 

Sometime after that he had passed 
out — perhaps almost immediately. He 
couldn’t remember now. Sir Lewis and 
two other men, all three of them in 
deep crimson robes and cowls like 
monks, had had some sort of conver- 
sation and then — and then — 

He couldn’t remember. Still it seemed 
likely that he had not left the brown- 
stone. Were the bars then to keep him 
in — or to keep someone else out? There 
was that dream of floating — had that 
been only the dream it seemed or had 
he been drifting around the building 
like some fantastic balloon? As an ex- 
planation for the bars it was anything 
but satisfactory but it was the only one 
that occurred to him. 



He became conscious once more of 
that indistinct multifarious murmuring 
inside his skull. It both pleased and dis- 
turbed him. It meant that his developing 
telepathic sense had not burned out for 
good. But he still could not select any 
one voice from the pulsing of “sounds.” 
He would have liked to search for 
Marla and Todd but a tentative attempt 
to reach them simply made the mur- 
muring louder and more confusing. 
There were several million minds be- 
tween them, all indistinguishable from 
one another. Telepathy, as Rhine had 
shown years ago, was not in any way 
comparable to radio — people were not 
neatly spread out along a wave-band, 
each with individual wavelength allo- 
cated. In telepathy there was no analogy 
to “sending” or “receiving,” though 
the terms were used for convenience. 

Telepathy was, instead, just one fac- 
tor of ESP. The telepath perceived the 
thought as he would perceive any other 
event in space-time. The mind which 
held the thought did not need to “send” 
it. And whatever the principle of selec- 
tion might be Danny didn’t know it. 

There was a stir beyond the bars. 
Danny looked up. It was Sir Lewis and 
the bulky, anonymous men, in the robes 
he had remembered. 

“Good afternoon, my boy," Sir Lewis 
said. “I trust vou’re rested.” 

“Rested but puzzled,” Danny said, 
“What's the idea of the bars?” 

“The bars? Why, to maintain the 
status quo pending a decision.” Sir 
Lewis smiled as if that explained every- 
thing. While he was smiling, there was 
a hum, and the bars slid out of the way. 
“Our Council is meeting now. I expect 
we’ll know the whole story within an 
hour or so.” 

“What story?” 

“What disposition to make of your 
case. I'm afraid you’ve become rather an 
embarrassment to the Brotherhood. Do 
you have a water tumbler in here? Ah, 
yes — fill it, please, and take this.” 

This was a pill about the size and 
shape of a robin’s egg. Danny eyed it 
with disbelief. 

“I’d have to be a horse to get that 
down. What is it?” 

“It is a requirement,” Sir Lewis said 
blandly. “Take it, please.” 

“Impossible.” 

Sir Lewis moved his head slightly. 
The men in the deep crimson robes 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



stepped forward with the quickness of 
panthers and locked Danny’s arms to 
his sides. 

“What the—!” 

Sir Lewis deftly thumbed the huge 
bolus into his mouth, emptied the water 
tumbler after it and held Danny’s nose. 
Danny gagged and retched. The astron- 
omer, undiscouraged, tried again. This 
time it worked. Danny could feel the 
bulky object inching down his gullet. He 
felt as if he had swallowed a basketball. 

After a moment he also felt some- 
thing else. The murmuring inside his 
head was gone. In its place was a hor- 
rible scrambling dislocation, not only of 
the telepathic impressions but even of 
his own thoughts. He found himself in- 
capable of thinking a sentence through 
without a reeling dizziness that threat- 
ened to black out the whole room. 

S IR LEWIS watched him for a mo- 
ment, then nodded. “A resonator,” 
he said pleasantly. “The Brotherhood 
wants to take no chances. It would be 
awkward if you were to hypnotize some- 
one or teleport yourself out of the build- 
ing. We can depend on the little ap- 
paratus to — ah — be with you until some 
decision is reached.” 

“What Brotherhood? What’s this all 
about?” The effort to frame the ques- 
tion made him dizzy again. Evidently 
the resonator left him only enough cort- 
ical energy to carry on one kind of 
thinking activity at a time. If he wanted 
to speak, he’d have to expect to be un- 
able to see while talking — or to hear, 
for that matter. The thing was diaboli- 
cal — and seemingly senseless. 

"The Brotherhood of the Psi-men,” 
Sir Lewis said, "of which I have the 
honor to be Hegemon. We were much 
surprised when you blundered into our 
building. At that very moment the 
Council was seated in solemn session to 
determine whether you too should be a 
Brother or should be eliminated. Per- 
haps our deliberations were what led 
you to us though we had the rooms 
carefully shielded.” 

He turned abruptly. "Come along, 
please.” 

Danny had no choice. The two muscle 
men at his side propelled him firmly 
along the corridor and into a small auto- 
matic elevator. The artificial jangling in 
his mind was terrifying. 

The Counci! members were robed and 



41 

cowled like the three PRS men Danny 
had already seen. They sat immobile at 
a diamond-shaped table until Sir Lewis 
seated himself. Then they turned and 
looked at Danny. 

"Is this the candidate?” 

“Heck, no,” Danny said. “If you want 
me you’d damn well better ask me po- 
litely whether or not I want you.” 
When the blackout lifted the nine 
men were all looking at Sir Lewis. 
“Frater Hegemon, we understood that 
the candidate was to be brought here 
under resonance,” someone said. 

“He is. The Council will please re- 
member that Mr. Caiden is an unusual- 
ly gifted candidate, potentially the su- 
perior of us all. Otherwise this meeting 
would have been unnecessary.” 

There was a stir among the delegates. 
They didn’t like that, these men with 
their mumbo-jumbo robes. 

"Arc you certain that there is no 
question of psychic activity?” 

“None whatsoever. You may expect, 
however, that Mr. Caiden will be in bet- 
ter possession of his mother wit than 
most of you in like circumstances. Con- 
duct yourselves accordingly.” 

Another stir — Sir Lewis was giving 
the Brotherhood rough treatment. But 
there was still no hint of what they 
wanted of him or what they did when 
they weren’t acting like characters in 
an historical play. 

“Mr. Caiden,” Sir Lewis said. 
“That’s my name.” 

“Try to maintain an open mind,” Sir 
Lewis said. “You have good reasons in 
your cwn mind for your attitude. But 
I assure you that our precautions are 
necessary and that the game is, in the 
end, worth the candle. Every man you 
see before you is an adept in the 
handling of some psychic force. Some 
of us arj telepaths — some are hypno- 
tists — some are teleports — some, clair- 
voyants — some, telekineticists — and so 
on. 

“It happens rarely that a man is born 
with some such gift. The average hu- 
man being has never considered the 
powers that lie in the mind or, if he 
has considered them, has so considered 
only to scoff. You are here because you 
have the gift or several of them and 
thus are automatically eligible for mem- 
bership in the Brotherhood.” 

"All right,” Danny said. "I’m eligible. 
What’s in it for me?” 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



4 1 

“More than you dream. The rare and 
select human beings whose gift it is to 
know and manipulate the psychic con- 
tinuum are the hope of the race. In that 
mysterious universe, where normal 
space-time laws do not apply, the mind 
moves and has its being. And the psy- 
chic continuum is dominant over the 
space-time plenum. A man who knows 
this and can use the information can 
be — for instance — as rich as he chooses 
— or as powerful.” 

The resonator made coherent thought 
almost impossible but Danny did not 
need any very intricate analysis to find 
the bugs in Sir Lewis’ design. “Men 
who have real power to exercise,” he 
said, fighting to keep his maverick mind 
clear, “do not hide behind identical 
robes and mysticism. And men who have 
power do not offer it to others.” 

“Of what power are you speaking?” 
Sir Lewis asked reasonably. “We have 
no political power, true. That is for- 
bidden us by the rules of our Order. 
One of the characteristics of the Psi- 
man is that he knows how little his gifts 
avail him in most mundane affairs. Our 
brothers in the East discovered long 
ago that the psychic forces are not of 
this universe and are degraded by mere 
power-seeking. 

“No, Danny, you mistake us. Our 
main purpose is the preservation of 
these gifts. It was Milton who called a 
book the precious lifeblood of a master 
spirit, embalmed and treasured up on 
purpose to a life beyond life. We mean 
to treasure up the spirit itself. To that 
end we select carefully those of our 
fellow-men who show the gifts we know 
to be rare and priceless. We establish 
certain rules of conduct that that gift 
may not be frittered away in the pur- 
suit of power.” 

Danny laughed. “What you say is 
sense-free,” he said. 

“Why?” 

“Because, first of all, there is no 
psychic continuum. Secondly, because 
what you call ‘gifts’ are only side-effects 
#f two fundamental parapsychological 
activities that can no more be passed 
On then the ability to reason or to write 
music. Either you inherit it or you 
don't. No society can decide beforehand 
where it may appear. Finally, because 
the employment of force and fraud is 
the essence of political power, however 
ijrou disguise it.” 



H E missed a substantial part of Sii 
Lewis' response in the throbbing 
blackness that had enveloped him the 
moment he had begun to speak. He took 
advantage of the divorce from his sur- 
roundings to think frantically while the 
opportunity lasted. 

These people, with their talk of a 
“psychic continuum," obviously had no 
conception of the infinite series of over- 
lapping plena which, if Danny and Todd 
were right, lay at the bottom of all the 
phenomena covered by the sign v . 
Their reliance upon a resonator to keep 
Danny’s psi faculties under control did 
not jibe with their ritualistic views of 
the psi faculty itself. 

“ — without notice," Sir Lewis was 
saying. “Unfortunately we are unable 
to take such a view of the matter. We 
cannot allow any man, whatever the 
strength of his disagreement with us, 
to remain outside our circle after he 
has discovered that we exist. Our cus- 
toms may be to some extent irrational. 
But that is not for any outsider to say. 
Those who would change us must be of 
us. Those who would not must die.” 
Danny struggled to keep his quiver- 
ing, fragmented mind focused upon the 
point at issue. “I won’t play,” he said. 
“I don't hold with this theory of the 
Select. The psi faculties are latent in 
every man’s mind. If you’re all the 
specialists you pretend to be you should 
be spreading the knowledge around — 
not hiding it.” 

“Not everyone can assimilate such 
knowledge,” Sir Lewis said. “Not ev- 
eryone has the chromosomes for it.” 

“I doubt that. The evidence seems to 
indicate that it's as natural as five fin- 
gers and two eyes. Your society is 
founded on the notion that a man with 
two eyes and five fingers is somehow 
superior to men who haven’t bothered 
to count how many eyes and fingers 
he has. 

“You’ve set up a master-race theory 
because you all have some limited psi 
faculties— but the psi faculties are 
available to everyone, with training. 
You call yourselves experts but you 
can’t even tell the psi faculties apart 
from non-parapsychological functions 
— you still think hypnotism is a psi 
faculty !” 

He wished fervently that he could 
have seen the reactions of the cowled 
figures, but the roaring darkness en- 




LET THE FINDER BEW 43 



gulfed him and would not go away. 
When his sight finally began to clear, 
the Psi-men were motionless and silent. 

Finally, Sir Lewis said, “Are there 
questions from the board?” 

No one said anything. 

"I call for a vote.” 

One by one, the cowled figures rose 
and left. At length there was only Sir 
Lewis and another man and Danny. 

"I vote to retain the candidate,” the 
unknown man said. "His kind of think- 
ing is rare and valuable in the Brother- 
hood. It is unfortunate that we have so 
frozen into our age-old mold that we 
can no longer see wherein we fail. Is 
there no hope that this vote can be set 
aside?” 

"None.” 

The unknown man, whose voice 
seemed suddenly to be a voiee that Dan- 
ny should know, said, "Then I will leave 
also. The Brotherhood is outmoded by 
its decision in this case. You will not 
see me again.” 

He vanished. The effort to under- 
stand why cost Danny his vision. When 
he could see again Sir Lewis was alone 
and watching him. 

“I’m sorry, Danny.” 

"Skip it. Your Brotherhood will 
execute me now. Is that it?” 

Sir Lewis shrugged. “I’m afraid so. 
They fear you, I think. Especially our 
Prytanis fears you. He has held his 
post for decades. And you didn’t go out 
of your way to play along with us.” 
There was a long silence. At last Sir 
Lewis said, “Do you know the name of 
the man who voted for you?” 

“No,” Danny said. "And I wouldn’t 
tell if I did. Your society would kill him 
for the vote as they seem prepared to 
kill me.” 

“Yes,” Sir Lewis said. "I think they 
would. I had hoped that you knew that 
man. He might have helped, somehow. 
He -vas always a stranger to us and un- 
predictable. I had banked upon his 
taking a stronger stand for your cause 
than he did. His abandonment of us will 
do you more harm than good.” 

"What about you?” Danny said, fight- 
ing away the black dizziness. 

"I? I am bound by the rules of the 
Order. I have long ago surrendered my 
personal preferences. I would have you 
live but — the Brotherhood would not. 
I am bound by that decision. 

"You must die.” 



T HE room was a fairly comfortable 
spot — as cells go. It was roughly 
twelve feet square and since it was on 
the corner of the building it had two 
windows. Neither one of them was large 
enough to permit a man to get through, 
even if there had been no bars. The 
barred door was of the electrically- 
controlled sliding type used in modern 
prisons. It was opened or shut by a 
switch in some central office, so there 
were no keys to be snatched from care- 
less guards. 

Still, it wasn’t bad. It was clean and 
dry and the north window looked down 
upon the heavy traffic of a market dis- 
trict, where huge trailer trucks un- 
loaded produce all night in the glare of 
mercury vapor, and small delivery wag- 
ons hauled it away through clouds of 
exhaust fumes all day long. The west 
window was tiny, and overlooked noth- 
ing but an airshaft. The windows 
across the shaft were blind and labeled 
Shaftway. 

Not, perhaps, a restful environment 
but an interesting one. As for the furni- 
ture, the cot was surprisingly comfort- 
able and the plumbing arrangements 
were modern if rather public. 

Danny inspected the place minutely 
but found nothing. He was willing to 
lay odds that an experienced criminal 
couldn’t have found a way out. After 
the inspection he began to pace, leaving 
the cot sprung back against the wall. 
Only a lamb would sit and wait for 
death. 

Determinedly, he forced himself to 
stop stalking, to go over to the wal 1 and 
let the cot down again, to sit quietly. 
Easy, old son ; he told himself. No sense 
in driving yourself potty over a little in- 
action when al' the rest of this screwy 
business hasn’t been able to do it. 

He wished desperately that he were 
rid of the resonator. But as he remem- 
bered the normal rhythm of the diges- 
tive process he couldn’t expect to say 
goodbye to the damned thing for an- 
other forty hours. It was probably still 
in his stomach at the moment. 

In the shimmering chaos of his 
thoughts the idea did not at first make 
any connection. When it did he found 
himself trembling with excitement. If 
the resonator functioned in principle as 
Todd’s did it would be setting up a 
continuous shuttling of nervous im- 
pulses between three "frame';” or Pois- 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



44 

eon brackets of space-time — the one he 
would “normally” occupy, one in the 
immediate “past” and one in the im- 
mediate “future.” 

Unless it were a highly simplified 
model, built only to perform the one 
operation it could be adjusted — he 
strode over to the washstand, nicked 
up the bar of yellow soap and sys- 
tematically began to eat it. 

Half an hour later, dizzy with tri- 
umph and exhaustion, he had the metal 
egg in his hand. 

The two halves of the casing weren’t 
welded but they were fitted together 
tightly. Danny grinned. The PRS had 
relieved him of his jackknife bui they 
had left him something far more effi- 
cient — a tiny electrician's screwdriver, 
its amber handle held in his pocket on 
a fountainpen clip. With the flap of the 
old Army shirt down over it the pocket 
looked empty. 

That was their second slip. Leaving 
him soap had been the first. He pried 
one half of the casing off. The little 
mechanism was a marvel of designing. 
It contained only one tube, a thing 
about the size of a peppercorn, and 
most of its circuits were printed. Proba- 
bly the final stages of assembly had 
been carried on under a binocular 
microscope. 

Todd’s series of steps had been 
summed up in a single transformer. Its 
innards were hidden but Danny knew 
better than to expect to understand the 
device at a glance. All he needed to 
know now was embodied in the two 
wristwatch-sized set-screws on the top 
of the transformer casing. 

The device Was adjustable. 

He filed the blade of the screwdriver 
on the stone windowsill until it was thin 
enough at the point to fit the set-screw 
slots, and cautiously turned the first 
one. Peace settled over him like a warm 
cloud. The uncontrollable jittering of 
his cortical impulses had stopped. 

After a moment he noticed that the 
telepathic murmuring was gone, too. 
He turned the screw a little further. 
The jangling confusion came back. 
Hastily he returned the screw to its 
former position. 

The resonator evidently could 
“spread” the nervous impulses in either 
“direction” or confine them to a single 
“frame.” With the first screw in neutral 
it could hold the mind fixed. That meant 



bleeding away of volitional control but 
it meant no possibility of using the psi 
faculties either. They depended upon 
complete, open contact with the alter- 
nate “frames” of the serial universe. 

If he was to have any chance of get- 
ting out of here before the Brotherhood 
stuffed him down some manhole he’d 
have to figure out how to get the spread 
back without sacrificing the control. 
Throwing the resonator away was out 
of the question. Properly understood it 
would work for him — and even at worst 
it would be invaluable for Todd. 

There were two screws. Mathemati- 
cally, each one should represent a 
variable in that basic ESP equation 
Todd had been trying to find. He had 
thought that it was a problem in matrix 
calculus, involving Heisenberg’s “prob- 
ability packets.” 

The original Heisenberg formulation 
was pq — qp=h/2TT i (1). The q was 
the generalized coordinate, not variable 
under serial conditions, p was momen- 
tum and h the Planck constant. Momen- 
tum in terms of psi was probably the 
velocity of propagation of nervous im- 
pulses — that at least would explain the 
effect of the first control-screw. And 
the second one — 

How constant was Planck’s constant 
in an infinite overlapping series? The 
question was meaningless framed that 
way ; there was no such thing as a con- 
stant in such a series except a rate of 
variation. In other words the value of h 
would be different from frame to frame. 

The tuning principle! Somebody in 
the PRS-Brotherhood had had his head 
out of the mush of the "psychic con- 
tinuum,” that was a cinch. Danny 
turned the second screw. 

The first thing he heard was a single 
word, in a perfectly clear and recog- 
nizable voice. The word was, “Atta- 
boy 1” 

The voice was — Sean’s. 



CHAPTER VIII 
Thunderbolt 



T HE second thing that Danny heard 
was a long muttered grumbling, 
deeper than the rumble of the produce 
trucks. He stepped to the north win- 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE I 



dow. The fraction of the night sky that 
was visible was covered with low-scud- 
ding, boiling clouds. A storm was com- 
ing up. The neon-tinted glare of the 
city painted the cloud faces. 

Danny changed his plans on the in- 
stant. It would be possible, now that 
the resonator was working with him in- 
stead of against him, to teleport him- 
self out of here as he had unknowingly 
teleported himself from the gambling 
syndicate’s hideout and as — apparently 
— the unknown man who had voted for 
Danny had teleported himself from the 
Brotherhood meeting. Had that man 
been Sean? The evidence was almost 
non-existent but Danny was sure of it — 
and these days he trusted his hunches. 

But simply skipping would not solve 
the problem now. There were too many 
factors to take into account. It was nec- 
essary to locate Marla and Todd, to get 
clear of the net of circumstantial evi- 
dence that the F.B.I. had woven about 
him. And above all it would be nec- 
essary to keep clear of the PRS. 

The thunder rumbled again as Danny 
left the window. The PRS was still to 
some extent an unknown quantity but it 
was a cinch that it was a nest of trou- 
ble. Danny smiled ruefully as he re- 
membered his first visit to the brown- 
stone. He’d stuck his head right in the 
proverbial lion’s mouth and the lion 
had just shut its eyes and yawned. 

Danny could sense the men of the 
Brotherhood now, moving about the 
building, intent upon their mysterious 
alfairs. One of those men was bound 
to be a clairvoyant, mentally posted to 
Danny’s cell — a man who would give 
the alarm at once if that cell should 
suddenly become untenanted. If it were 
possible to get out in some fashion 
which would cover his tracks — 

A sudden flash of lightning cast 
criss-cross patterns on the floor from 
both windows. Despite himself Danny 
jumped. The burst of electrical light 
had seemed entirely too close for com- 
fort. A second later came a battery of 
thunder, wild and deafening. 

If the place were to be struck by 
lightning, for instance — 

Well — why not? The earth-sky re- 
lationship of lightning had been known 
for two hundred years. Even grammar 
school level books described the widen- 
ing of potential difference and the pre- 
paratory upstroke. If a man could 



46 

throw furniture around with PK it 
should be a relatively simple matter to 
maneuver static electricity. 

But it had to be done quickly. He 
stationed himself in the southwest cor- 
ner of the room, turned both resonator 
controls as far as they would go and 
focused every erg of his enormously 
boosted psi energy upon the opposite 
corner. Deliberately putting out of his 
mind every thought of Marla, of the 
PRS, of himself, he concentrated upon 
driving out ’very free electron from 
that corner of the building. 

There was resistance. The spacer 
lattice of atomic nuclei in the stone was 
not as regular as that in metal, and the 
wandering charges tended to gravitate 
toward the nearest source of binding 
energy and become planetary. By driv- 
ing the free positions inward however 
he slowly tipped the balance. 

Footsteps resounded in the corridor. 
Only a few seconds were left — was the 
charge high enough? There was the 
alternate danger — if it were too high 
he would surely be electrocuted. He 
tightened his grip on the resonator and 
herded and harried the fleeing electrons. 

Someone stopped at the bars and 
peered in. Now! 

With a last burst of effort he sent 
the bunched positrons fountaining up- 
ward. A forest of lightning bolts leaped 
back, playing gleefully upon the corner 
of the building. The thunder stunned 
him. The whole universe burst into 
flame and toppled toward final darkness 
in a blast of sound. 

With it toppled Danny, every muscle 
knotted with galvanic tetanus — blind, 
deaf, convulsed into helplessness. 

* * * * * 

After some several eternities, the 
agonizing stiffness began to abate and 
Danny felt an even more painful prick- 
ling run though his arms and legs — as 
if his muscles had been “asleep,” and 
the blood were returning to normal 
channels. 

The roar and flash of the lightning- 
play penetrated gradually to his con- 
sciousness, then began to diminish a 
little. He stirred. The movement forced 
a low groan from him and something 
dug sharply into his back. 

His toes began to prickle. Experi- 
mentally he tried to sit up. A spasm of 
pain shot through him but after awhile 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



46 

he managed to force himself up on one 
elbow. 

He seemed to be lying on a sharply 
sloping hill of brick and plaster. 
Twenty feet above him a toilet lay bent 
double, fountaining water down over 
the tumbled ruins. A cloud of brick-dust 
was still rising and in the sky over- 
head the clouds bashed their ram’s- 
heads together noisily. 

A T the bottom of the hill, a trailer 
truck was tilted over on its side, 
its motor still idling, the collapsed side 
of the brownstone engulfing most of it. 
Danny clambered to his feet and picked 
his way gingerly down to the roof of 
the truck. 

He realized suddenly that his right 
hand was shaking violently with fatigue 
as if he had been hanging by it for half 
an hour. Curiously he opened it. The 
resonator lay in his palm. He managed 
to grin. If he had not known what a 
death-grip was before he knew now. 
He put the tiny, invaluable mechanism 
carefully in his shirt pocket and but- 
toned the flap. 

The truck would do. Danny eased 
himself over the edge of the trailer 
and dropped to the littered ground. 
There was a body in the cab of the 
truck itself, a body rigid with the in- 
stantaneous stiffness of electrocution. 
The smell of burned flesh mingled in- 
congruously with a strong odor of fresh 
celery from the trailer behind the cab. 

Danny heaved the body out and set- 
tled himself on the tilted cushion before 
the wheel. The motor hummed con- 
tentedly. After a brief search he found 
the lever which released the air pres- 
sure holding the trailer sealed to the 
truck. He pressed it and the cab settled 
back to an even keel with a sodden 
sigh. Danny stepped on the gas. 

The drive-wheels chewed into the 
asphalt and carried the truck away. 
Behind him Danny hard a roar of col- 
lapsing masonry as the trailer tipped 
over and was buried. Then the sound 
was swallowed in thunder. 

And now what? 

Danny had a truck, a means of trans- 
portation to some place unknown. At 
the moment he was fairly safe from the 
police, and the F.B.I. couldn’t be every- 
where at once. But he had to find some 
refuge. 

His apartment was out; — that would 



be watched. Probably the old job would 
be watched, too. The PRS was no longer 
a haven — it was at once a goal and an 
enemy. Neither the Forteans nor the 
Rhine people were far enough into 
supranormality to be willing to risk 
offering haven to a probable criminal. 

But for the moment he was a free 
agent. He was just one more truck 
driver, prowling the traffic-heavy 
streets of a storm-ridden city. Sir Lewis 
no longer knew where he was. Neither 
did the F.B.I. Not even Sean — 

The traffic light ahead flickered, and 
Danny swung his monoxide-breathing 
mastodon down a side street. No use 
attracting the attention of cops. If he 
obeyed the traffic lights, he’d be just 
one more truck on the way to pick up 
a trailer. In the meantime — 

In the meantime, why not Sean? 
Clearly Sean had meant to be overheard 
when he had offered his one-word con- 
gratulation to Danny for working out 
the puzzle of the resonator. And equally 
clearly he was in this business some- 
where. Danny was virtually certain 
that he had been the unknown hooded 
man in the PRS meeting and that he 
owned one of the voices Danny had 
heard earlier in the game — the voice 
that had said, “Let the finder beware.” 
The psychiatric advice had been a 
blind — but a blind for what? Where did 
Sean fit — and what did he know? 

It was a cinch, anyhow, that Sean 
wouldn’t care a snap of the fingers 
whether or not the F.B.I. was interested 
in Danny. Very probably, he’d enjoy it. 

Sean’s place was a good distance 
away, up on 125th Street near the Uni- 
versity. Danny turned his behemoth 
toward the West Side, where he could 
pick up the highway to the north side 
of town. 

Halfway there he discovered that he 
was hungry. He couldn’t remember 
having eaten anything since the liver- 
wurst-on-rye sandwiches, unless he 
counted the resonator or the soap. 

He turned the truck off the highway 
again and found a diner. Inside, he 
ordered hash-and-eggs and filched a 
tabloid from a drunk asleep in the 
booth behind him. On page 3 it said : 

SNATCH WITNESS IN PRICE-FIX PROBE 

Mystery Girl Held By FBI 
Missing Psychologist 
Linked to Grain Case 




47 



LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



The story was incredibly garbled but 
a few facts could be worried out of it. 
Todd had vanished and Marla, evi- 
dently without stopping to think, had 
carried the story of the kidnaping to 
the police. It seemed clear enough that 
the gamblers, having survived their 
battle with the Pinkerton men had 
come back for Todd. 

The old man couldn’t take much 
rough treatment. Danny could only 
hope that Todd would tell the exact 
truth — the fact that both men talked 
the same kind of double-talk might 
puzzle the top man of the syndicate 
enough to make him hold off on the 
brutality for a while. 

Marla was in no better position. She 
was in the cooler, where the PRS could 
locate her at its leisure. Up to now the 
PRS had never heard of Marla. But the 
public linking of her name with Dan- 
ny’s would be enough to arouse their 
interest. If Sir Lewis hadn't been killed 
in the lightning barrage he would be 
sure to check every possible angle. He 
was too shrewd to take Danny’s “death” 
on faith. 

Suddenly Danny was struck anew 
with a sense of terrible urgency. He 
gulped his coffee and threw the dollar 
bill on the table. There was nothing for 
it now but to get to Sean’s as fast as 
possible and there plan some way to 
get to Marla and Todd before the storm 
broke. 

He put the truck in gear and nosed 
it out onto the highway again. It was 
a tough assignment for an ex-trade 
journalist, whose only present prospect 
was that of hiding in a friend’s apart- 
men until the cops caught up with him. 

What kind of an assignment it was 
for a man with a fully operative psi 
faculty might be another matter. 

The truck’s engine pounded. Danny, 
unused to the sound of any engine but 
hat of a private car, suspected that 
it had burnt out a bearing — but it ran. 
After awhile the highway turned off 
toward the river and ran through a 
quiet deserted dim park. And then the 
street numbers climbed toward Sean. 

S EAN was wearing a coffee-colored 
robe and red slippers so fuzzy that 
his feet appeared to have been stolen 
from some outrageously dyed lioness. 
If joblessness bothered him he did not 
show it. He looked perfectly composed 



and, as usual, faintly amused. 

“Why, hello, Danny,” he said. “Were 
you the cause of that racket out in the 
street? You must have come here in 
a ten-ton Christie tank.” 

“Practically,” Danny agreed. “Look, 
Sean, I’m in a worse jam than ever. 
Can you take me in ? I should warn you 
that the F.B.I. is after me and you’ll be 
in trouble too if I’m found here.” 
“Don’t talk so fast, old man, you’re 
out of breath already,” Sean said. 
“Yes, of course, come in. I’ve always 
wanted to be an embattled fugitive and 
barring that I can always shelter one.” 
Gratefully, Danny went inside and 
dropped into a low, deep chair. The 
apartment was surprisingly luxurious. 
In this neighborhood it probably rented 
for two hundred a month. Sean caught 
Danny’s wondering glance. 

“Yes, it’s a bit dear for an ex-food 
editor,” he said. “But now that I’m out 
of that job I needn't look like a food 
editor any more.” 

“Oh. You’ve had dough all along and 
were just trying to pass as a working 
man ?” 

“Yes, that’s it. So you can see that 
it didn’t take much courage for me to 
quit when you did.” Sean smiled gently 
and sat down on an ottoman, stretching 
out one outlandish scarlet slipper. “The 
time was coming when my real job 
would take all of my time anyhow.” 
“And what’s that?” 

“Don’t you think you owe me a con- 
fidence or two, first?” 

Danny felt himself blushing. It was 
a perfectly fair request. And now that 
he had — so to speak — thrown himself 
on Sean’s mercy he didn’t feel morally 
free to refuse. 

“I figured you knew I hadn’t told the 
whole story,” he said dully. “This is it.” 
He talked for nearly two hours in the 
soft unvarying lamplight. Throughout 
the recital neither Sean’s expression 
nor his position on the ottoman changed 
by so much as a wink. He seemed frozen 
in stone, one arm thrown across his lap, 
one leg stretched out, one hand prop- 
ping up his chin. The position reminded 
Danny of a Dore drawing of Satan, and 
Sean’s always rather diabolical hand- 
someness completed the impression. 

“I see,” Sean said at last. “Fairly and 
truly told and no little sacksful of 
reservations hidden in the mental cellar 
any more. Thank you, Danny.” 




48 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



“You’re welcome, of course, Sean. 
You can see why I didn’t want to trot 
all this stuff out when we first talked. 
Of course a lot of it hadn’t happened 
then.” 

“Yes,” Sean said. “Still, much of it 
needn’t have happened if you had told 
me everything you knew in the first 
place.” 

He stood up, hands thrust deeply into 
the pockets of the robe. “You see, Dan- 
ny,” he said, “it was quite impossible 
for me to be honest with you until you 
were honest with me. Until you told me 
of your own free will just how things 
were with you I couldn’t help you. May 
I see the resonator, please?” 

Silently Danny passed it over. Ex- 
pertly Sean sprang the shell with a 
pressure at its sides and inspected the 
mechanism. Then he covered it again 
and returned it. 

“It is the same. I’m quite proud of it.” 
“ You designed it?” 

“Yes, of course — those mutton-heads 
at the PRS are too muzzy with mys- 
ticism to master a technique as basic 
as serial resonance. I admit that I was 
worried as to what use they would make 
of it. Taylor and I estanned — ” 
“Taylor? The Fortean?” 

“Yes. We estanned that it would 
probably be used on you and that the 
chances were good that you’d use it to 
get away from the PRS. Without it, 
your chances looked slim — but there is 
always an element of uncertainty in 
precognition and we could not be sure 
whether or not we were giving the PRS 
something which would do irreparable 
damage. We need not have worried. 
They are inherently incapable of scien- 
tific thinking.” 

“Who,” Danny said, “is wet I’ve told 
my story. You tell me yours.” 

“Sure,” Sean said. “Real psi-men — 
not those ceremonious criminals at the 
PRS — are loosely organized all over the 
world. Our main purpose is to keep a 
close eye on people like the PRS mem- 
bers, who develop some small facet or 
another of the parapsychological abili- 
ties and use it badly. -*( 

“They’ve been playing the market, 
and they’ve evolved their elaborate 
ritual for protecting themselves be- 
cause they dread any rivalry in the field. 
Their adepts can detect the develop- 
ment of psi powers in any individual 
and, If possible, they run that in- 



dividual down and enlist him — or rub 
him out. 

“Much of the time we’ve been able to 
prevent that but we have a firm law 
against interfering until such an in- 
dividual has won his way to full psi 
power under his own steam. If he still 
needs help after that — and ordinarily 
he doesn’t — we help him. But not be- 
fore. 

“I was pretty sure you’d come 
through but there is always the chance 
right up to the last minute that a man 
will freeze in some stage of his develop- 
ment and become a psychic cripple like 
the PRS men. I got in touch with Taylor 
very early — he's the senior member of 
our group — and it was agreed that I 
should take a post with the Brother- 
hood and plant the resonator for your 
use. 

“If you turned out to be capable of 
using it to the fullest extent of it* pos- 
sibilities Taylor agreed with me that 
you should have every help our group 
could bring to bear — but not before. 
We were separated by a good many 
miles when this decision was reached 
and our conversations had to be rather 
vague. Both Taylor and I became aware 
early in the game that you could over- 
hear us whenever we were talking 
about you. But it all came through ex- 
actly as we had hoped.” 

“Then you and Taylor were the 
voices I heard. I guessed as much. But 
what about Dr. Todd? He’s been work- 
ing like a dog for years on the whole 
problem. Surely he deserves some con- 
sideration,” 

“He’s got it,” Sean said. "Every hu- 
man being is an unique problem, Dan- 
ny. Everyone comes to the psi powers 
in his own way. Can’t you estann the 
outcome of Todd’s case?” 

“I don’t want to try,” Danny said. 
“I haven’t used any psi faculty since 
I got away from the PRS. I think they 
can detect it.” 

“Of course they can. I forgot. My 
contempt for them sometimes makes 
me forget that they have real and dan- 
gerous abilities. Well, let’s go, Danny.” 

“Go?” 

“To the syndicate hide-out. It’s high 
time this sequence was closed. We 
should arrive in time to see the end of 
Todd's search and of yours. We’d best 
use the truck.” 

“I think it’s about out of gas.” 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



“I’ll run it. I’ll bleed off the gravitie 
moment of alternate cylinders and the 
gas can go hang. They won’t suspect me 
of harboring you, I’m sure — and even 
if they do they’re scared of me and 
won’t interfere. Hurry — a new sequence 
has already started and unless this one 
is finished on schedule the new one will 
take over. 

“The new one gives the PRS full 
control.” 



CHAPTER IX 
Fall of Sean 



T HE truck purred through the dark- 
ness. The lights of passing cars 
picked out Sean’s sharp features. He 
was still smiling but there was little 
mockery in the smile now. He seemed 
to be taking real pleasure in the small 
job of keeping the gasoline-less engine 
running, as if his intimate relationship 
with the pounding cylinders were some- 
thing he had often wanted to feel. 

Danny, long harried by the forces 
that opposed any man who used the psi 
powers, saw for the first time some- 
thing of the joy of them, saw it in the 
unusual relaxation of Sean’s smile. 

“Can’t you tell me anything of what’s 
coming, Sean?” 

“Very little,” Sean said. “We have 
been working for a long time upon two 
problems. One of them does not apply 
to the present situation — you will hear 
of it later. It is the only problem in 
man’s history that is of real impor- 

“And the other one?” 

"Something rather like nuclear fis- 
sion,” Sean said. “We have known for 
a long time that the behaviour of elec- 
trons betrays a kind of thought. Every- 
thing Minowski and Dirac and Heisen- 
berg have done on electronic motion 
shows thought. „ 

“Our experience with the psi prin- 
ciples shows that the Bohr wave-atom 
has a psychology of its own. And three 
centuries ago, through the initial 
studies of the behaviour of mobs, we 
found our first inkling that this elec- 
tronic psychology was mirrored in hu- 
man behaviour.” 

Danny guided the truck onto the 



49 

King’s Bridge and paid the toll. "What 
kind of human behaviour?” he said. 

“Mob action, first of all — and sec- 
ondly, schizoid behaviour. We think now 
that most forms of insanity represent a 
splitting of the personality into psi and 
non-psi groups. A schizoid is totally di- 
vorced from all cortical activity and 
lives in the psi centers exclusively. The 
paranoid is a case of cortical activity 
unmodified by any psi control. We have 
been looking for a way to induce this 
kind of- splitting. It would be a terrible 
weapon.” 

"Cripes, Sean, somebody’s ahead of 
you. Franz Werfel’s last book has a 
war scene where there was a mental 
bombardment.” 

“Why not?” Sean said. “You don’t 
get to be a serious novelist without 
some understanding of these things. 
Look out, Danny, the driveway is only 
half a mile from here. Give Todd plen- 
ty of elbow room and don’t lose the res- 
onator. I’m going to kill the engine 
now. All set?” 

“Sure.” 

The engine sputtered and died. Sean 
opened the door of the truck and got 
out. Danny followed him. It was very 
quiet with crickets underlining the si- 
lence. There were a million stars. 

“How come they come back here aft- 
er the fight with the Pinks?” Danny 
whispered. 

"You don’t have to whisper yet. Any- 
how they know I’m coming at least. As 
for the Pinks, they’re of the opinion 
they won the fight and cleaned the place 
out. They have eight or ten dupes to 
show for it and some very firm opinions 
which they don’t suspect are not their 
own.” 

“Did you-—?” 

“No, I didn’t. The PRS is out here, 
Danny. They've been following your 
every move for days. When you teleport- 
ed yourself out of the garret they took 
over and sent some of the smaller fry 
out after Todd. The Pinks were given 
a little mental manhandling and sent 
home. I don’t know what happened to 
the boss gambler but he no longer 
counts. 

“The PRS isn’t sure you’re alive but 
they’re baiting the trap with Todd just 
in case you are — and they’re baiting it 
by using the gamblers as a front.” He 
stepped off the road into a field of tim- 
othy. "I’m blanketing you at the mo- 




KO THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



ment and I hope they’ll think I’m alone. 
If they try to bluff me we’ll have just 
that much more time to work. I think 
they will.” 

Danny felt a faint glow of warmth in 
his shirt pocket and fumbled in it for 
the resonator. The little metal egg was 
the source of the heat. “The resonator’s 
heating up,” he reported. 

“Stand still.” 

After a moment Sean said, “How is 
it now ?” 

“Cooling off.” 

“Better put it in neutral. Evidently 
they’ve put out an impedance field. We 
don’t want to burn it out. We’ll need it.” 
Danny sprang the case open and found 
the control buttons in the starlight. He 
returned them to neutral with the 
screwdriver, feeling the horizons of the 
serial universe close in around him. It 
was a curiously unpleasant feeling, 
though only a week ago the confinement 
to a single “frame” would have seemed 
normal to him. 

“That’s good,” Sean said. “That blan- 
kets you twice as effectively as I could 
and avoids the risk of their catching me 
at it.” 

“I don’t like it,” Danny complained. 

“I don’t blame you. But it shouldn't 
last long.” 

Abruptly Danny saw the house, long, 
low and lightless against the spangled 
sky, with a smudge of forest behind it. 
He discovered it so suddenly that it 
seemed almost to have sprung at him. 

“I’ll go right on in,” Sean whispered. 
“Give me a start and then sneak under 
that window that’s just to the right of 
the chimney. Don’t worry about being 
caught. They have a complete clairvoy- 
ant lookout covering this area, so they 
won’t bother using the eyes God gave 
them — and with the resonator in neu- 
tral no ESP sense can spot you.” 

His teeth flashed in the starlight. 
“It’s funny — I can see you but I’m so 
used to estanning people that I hardly 
believe you’re here myself. You’re some- 
thing new in the world, Danny — you’re 
psychically invisible !” 

H E turned and walked swiftly to- 
ward the house. Danny lost sight 
of him almost at once and stood patient- 
ly in the sweet-smelling timothy. He 
missed the psi faculties though they 
had brought him little but grief thus 
l far. 



The sensation of being directly in 
touch with the basic fabrics of space- 
time had been reassuring, a new order 
of reality. But being, as Sean had put 
it, psychically invisible was no mean ad- 
vantage. Danny began to understand 
better the magnitude of the risk Sean 
had taken in giving the PRS the res- 
onator. 

Still, Sean’s precognition of the re- 
sults had indicated that the PRS would 
be unable to use the little device. Dan- 
ny wished fervently that he could es- 
tann, if only for a split second, the 
probable end of this sequence of events 
— Sean had been so indefinite about it. 
It was ridiculous, after all this long 
struggle toward full realization of psi 
powers, to be in a spot which forbade 
him to use them. 

A rectangle of yellow light opened 
in the hulking shadow of the house, 
silhouetting Sean’s slim body and a 
chunkier one. Indistinct murmurs drift- 
ed over the timothy. Then the light was 
cut off again. Danny sprinted toward 
the window Sean had indicated. 

It was steel-shuttered but there were 
several slits big enough to see through. 
It looked into the same room that Dan- 
ny had seen before, the one where the 
gambler and Tooey had questioned him. 

The gambler was not at the big desk 
now. Instead it was occupied by a small- 
er man with a fringe of red hair and a 
bald pate. That head looked vaguely fa- 
miliar but the man’s back was to Dan- 
ny. It wasn't the flowery white poll of 
Sir Lewis Carter — and every other PRS 
man Danny had seen had been cowled. 

The door across the room opened, 
and Sean came in. The stocky man was 
with him but he seemed glad to be rid 
of his charge. Sean looked at the man 
at the desk and smiled. Danny pressed 
his forehead hard against the painted 
metal of the shutters and was reward- 
ed with a just-distinguishable mutter- 
ing. 

“This is a pleasant surprise,” Sean 
was saying. “The Brotherhood must 
be desperate.” 

“The Brotherhood knows what it’s 
doing,” the other man said. “Speak up, 
Hennessy. My time is valuable.” 

“Not to me,” Sean said. “You’re hold- 
ing Dr. Todd here. We want him re- 
leased.” 

“We know nothing about your Dr. 
Todd. You know as well as I do that we 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 



have nothing to do with parapsycholo- 
gists. We decided long ago that any pro- 
gram against them would speedily con- 
vince them they were on the right 
track." 

"All events are unique,” Sean said. 
“Todd is here. Do you think you could 
hide that from me?" 

The other man was silent for a long 
moment. “No,” he said at last. “Sup- 
pose Todd is here? Are you going to 
pretend that you could find him?” 

“No,” Sean responded, surprisingly. 
“I hadn’t expected to find you in charge 
here. I’ve no doubt that you’ve got Todd 
squirreled away in some series it would 
take me a million years to locate. I 
don’t propose to fritter away my youth 
beating my way through the Crusades 
or the reign of Mukkad Bejh in hopes of 
seeing Todd.” 

“I didn’t think you would,” the man 
at the desk said sardonically. “You 
won’t find him in the Siege of Trebizond 
or the Teapot Dome incident, either. 
Any other guesses?” 

“I said I wasn’t going to try,” Sean 
said. “Produce him.” 

“Drop dead.” 

For a moment Danny thought that 
Sean had done exactly that. He bent dou- 
ble in the middle and disappeared in 
front of the desk. The other man rose 
halfway to his feet. His desk rose with 
him, teetering, disclosing Sean leaning 
on one elbow on the carpet. The desk 
rose higher, made a sudden, abortive 
lunge toward Sean, and then turned on 
its own axis, dumping the ink-pot into 
the redhead's lan. The redhead swore. 

Sean grinned, but he was sweating. 
“Why, Mall,” he said. “If your god- 
fearing publishers could hear you 
now — ” 

The redhead turned, edging out from 
behind the desk, which remained sus- 
pended in mid-air. It was Mall, all right. 
The ink made a large black stain on one 
trouser-leg. He was sweating, too. 

For a moment the two men faced each 
other, struggling for control of the 
heavy desk. Then, gradually, the wob- 
bling object canted toward Mall. This 
time the lamp fell off, its shade rolling 
as it hit the rug. The desk continued 
to advance inexorably upon Mall, back- 
ing him toward the window. Danny 
pried frantically at the shutters. 

“I don’t like to use force,” Sean grit- 
ted. “But your error in trying to kill 



51 

me was a serious one, Mall. Almost as 
serious an error as marooning Todd in 
a serial-sequence. Don’t you know he’s 
on the edge of mastering the psi pow- 
ers? You’re a joke of a psi-man.” 
“Carter!” Mall screamed. “Aubrey! 
Elliott! Schaum!” 

The desk inched forward. Danny's 
bleeding fingers slipped on the cold 
metal, but the shutter gave a little. 
Mall’s eyes darted around the room, and 
lighted upon the fallen lamp. The bulb 
burst and a thin wedge of electrical 
green shot through the sudden dark- 
ness. Sean cried out. There was a heavy 
slam as the desk hit the floor. 

T HE shutter screeched suddenly and 
swung open ; at the same instant, 
the door was kicked back and Sir Lew- 
is’ bulky shadow was cast into the dark 
room. Danny threw a shoe over the win- 
dowsill and kicked the glass in. The 
green beam wavered and went out. 

“What the devil, Mall! Did you get 
him?” 

“I think so. He may still be alive. I 
heard something go through the win- 
dow. Lord, he was strong!” 

“These high-minded idiots depend too 
much on themselves,” Sir Lewis said. 
“He could have been nine times as 
strong as you were and still a fool to 
tackle us single-handed.” He kicked in 
the darkness until he hit Sean. "There 
he is.” 

“Yes, I spotted him. I’ve set up a 
nerve-block. Get one of your levitators 
to move him out of here and into the 
impedance-field. See that he gets medi- 
cal attention first. If he dies we’ll have 
Taylor and all the rest of that crowd 
down on us. Caiden must be dead.” 

“I wouldn’t be too sure,” Sir Lewis 
said. “He might not have gone to Hen- 
nessy, after all.” 

“If he survived he went to Hennes- 
sy,” Mall said coldly. “The sequence 
would admit of nothing else. And ob- 
viously he isn’t with Hennessy. Next 
time you have a crisis you can handle it 
yourselves. You’ll depend upon my pre- 
dictions hereafter.” 

“I’m still not satisfied,” Sir Lewis 
grumbled. “But I’m only the Hegemon 
here. If you say Caiden’s dead I sup- 
pose he’s dead.” 

The two went out. Danny waited, 
scarcely daring to breathe. His foot had 
been sticking through the broken glass 




52 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 

throughout the whole conversation, but The Brotherhood had bled off all the 



neither man had so much as looked to- 
ward the window. 

After a short interval, a tall, spare 
shadow stuck its head around the door- 
jamb. Sean’s body rose from the floor. 
The shadow disappeared. Sean’s floated 
after it. The room was deserted. 

Cautiously Danny climbed in. Mall 
and Carter had thought Sean still alive 
because of the sound of breaking glass ; 
they hadn’t bothered to check on wheth- 
er or not something had actually been 
thrown — or telekineticized — through it 
from inside. But it seemed equally like- 
ly that the current from the burst bulb- 
socket had wounded Sean fatally. There 
had been no sign of activity from him 
since that final outcry. 

It hit Danny suddenly, standing there 
in the tense darkness, that Sean had 
known what would happen. He had ex- 
pected to lose his battle with Mall. 

He had known that Mall was one of 
the key men in the PRS. He had walked 
into the trap the PRS had set with 
every expectation of falling before the 
man whom he had despised — and 
watched — for nearly two years in the 
Food Chronicler office. 

If Sean were dead he had died in 
the expectation that Danny would be 
able to beat Mall and the PRS by him- 
self. 

And if he were not dead he would ex- 
pect Danny to go after Todd and waste 
no time in trying to extricate Sean from 
a situation Sean had chosen for him- 
self. 

Most important of all he had given 
Danny an instrumentality which was 
capable of dealing with the entire situ- 
ation if Danny used it properly. Up to 
now the best use of the resonator had 
depended upon its employment to re- 
strict the psi powers. Until further no- 
tice Danny was going to continue to 
use it that way. 

He peered out into the corridor. It 
was empty. At its end Danny saw the 
stairwell to the garret. The steps were 
distorted somehow — they seemed turned 
away from each other and phantom 
staircases spiralled into nothingness 
from each successive: riser. Something 
strange was going on upstairs. It did 
not look as if a man could walk up those 
treads and expect to reach the top. 

Todd was up there. But where "up 
there” might be. was anybody’s guess. 



possible sequences of space-time evi- 
dently. Every one of these steps rep- 
resented a separate "sequence,” each 
potentially as real as any other. The 
piled-up film-strips of the serial uni- 
verse had been spread and Todd fea- 
tured in' only one of them. 

A man who could think his way 
through the intricate math of the Min- 
kowski universe might find the main- 
line of probability which led directly 
up that staircase — but a moment’s de- 
viation into the old philosophical brain- 
cracker of “parallel” universes would 
strand the climber in some outrageously 
improbable sequence which led to a 
short and blighted future. 

Danny took out the resonator and 
twisted the second screw. His mind, still 
confined to the single frame of "now,” 
was released upon the instant to the full- 
est range of the Planck axis. More than 
half of the phantom staircases fogged 
into nothingness. Of those that re- 
mained visible six were solid and clam- 
ored to be climbed. One of them led 
to Todd. 

Danny took the first step. 

CHAPTER X 
The Steps 

gh NE - 

The timothy was gone. The 
lumpy terrain was dotted with stubble. 
But except for the few monster stems 
waving in the wind nothing grew upon 
it. A few scattered stones showed where 
the house had been. 

There was still a smell of timothy 
but it was much too strong. The bar- 
ren stank of timothy — rotten. 

Behind the ruins of the house was a 
bare forest of dead trees, the bark peel- 
ing scrofulously from decaying trunks. 
The sky was gray and clouded. Toward 
the north, where the city should have 
been, was only a twisting of fog. A 
black bird, like a crow but bigger, cir- 
cled in the damp wind and Danny heard 
its cry echoing out over the moor. 

Ke-a. Ke-a. 

There was no other sound. Bewild- 
ered, Danny turned back toward the 
house. A little of the stairway was still 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 53 



standing and almost all of the chim- 
ney. The rest of the stones lay at ran- 
dom in the dead stubble, as if the whole 
house had been blown outward. 

Ke-a. Ke-a. 

Was Todd here? Was anything alive 
in this whole blasted sequence but Dan- 
ny and the hoarse black bird? There 
was a pall of disaster over everything 
as if plague had struck — or war. 

Danny looked down. The stubble was 
all around his feet, though he was 
standing in what should have been the 
hallway of the house. The sundered 
steps were still ahead of him although 
he had already ascended one of them. 

Of course. This was one of the in- 
finite number of overlapping sequences 
whose totality made the real world. It 
was neither wholly untrue nor more 
than fractionally true. New sequences 
were starting every instant. One of 
them, Sean had said, would give the 
PRS full control if it were allowed to 
establish itself — to come closer to the 
main line of reality. 

It would be in that sequence that Todd 
would be hidden. The PRS hoped that 
Sean’s cohorts would be forced to see 
the sequence realized to get Todd back 
into space-time — and a sequence where 
they were in full control would be the 
safest place for a prisoner. 

It was unlikely that the PRS would 
want to see a world like this one re- 
alized. Todd wasn’t here. In this se- 
quence all humanity was — dead. 

Danny looked up to see where the 
ruined staircase broke off. There was 
nothing beyond it but the gray sky. But 
it was a signal, a finger-post, that told 
him he had not yet climbed far enough. 
He lifted his foot. 

Two. 

For an instant the height was dizzy- 
ing. He grappled for the hand-rail, and 
nearly dropped the resonator. The tow- 
er was a good two hundred feet high, 
swaying on a single reed of metal. The 
man beside him put out a steadying 
arm. 

“Easy, old man, the wind is bad up 
here.’’ It was Sean. Or — no, it was only 
fractionally Sean. Below, the encamp- 
ment stretched for miles and tiny men 
scurried. Half the forest had been cut 
down to make barracks. In the field on 
the other side ten identical projectiles 
of shining metal stood in cradling webs. 

The man who looked like Sean shift- 



ed his rifle to the other shoulder. “All 
right now?” 

Danny nodded numbly. The other man 
said, “Carrick says they’ll be firing five 
of them tonight but I think it’s just 
another latrine rumor. Cripes, it’s cold 
up here. I’ll be glad when we’re re- 
lieved.” 

Something went overhead with a 
noise like a police whistle amplified 
a million times. It was going too fast 
to be visible. 

“There’s one that’s not for us,” the 
man who looked like Sean said conver- 
sationally. “Sometimes I wish I was in 
the Teletroops — they don’t get any 
guard details. It hands me r laugh 
every time I think what the experts 
said. That bomb was supposed to make 
the infantry obsolete. Then they get this 
teleport thing and wham! The infan- 
try’s top dog again and gets shot back 
and forth around the world like so 
many cablegrams.” 

That was the clue. In a sequence 
where teleportation was a military ne- 
cessity it was not, could not be, a se- 
cret of the PRS. Danny looked up. How 
did you climb empty air? He was al- 
ready as high as he could go. 

No, not quite. He made for the guard 
rail. 

“Hey!” the man who looked like Sean 
shouted. “You crazy fool, you'll break 
your — ” 

Danny stepped off — 

Three. 

T HE soldier’s voice snapped out of 
existence. Danny was enveloped in 
humming dusk. High over his head a 
vaulted ceiling arched its back over 
something immense and dark and 
throbbing with power. The building 
seemed as big as a zeppelin hangar and 
there were tall windows in it that sug- 
gested a hangar. Through the windows 
Danny could see sunlight and the point- 
ed spires of the distant city, familiar 
yet changed. 

There were no men in the building. 
The throbbing machine was being tend- 
ed by things on caterpillar treads, 
things like tractors with metal hands. 
One of them glided silently past Dan- 
ny, paused, reversed its motion. 

“You are in danger here,” the metal 
thing said. “It is forbidden that hu- 
mans enter the plant. There is harmful 
radiation.” 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



54 

“I'm sorry. I didn’t know.” 

“You should return if you are hu- 
man. You do not seem to be. Your brain 
is a new type to me. Have the brain- 
builders decided to dispense with the 
psi mechanisms?” 

“No,” Danny said. “I’m human. I’m 
shielded, that’s all. You have access to 
psi information here then — ” 

“Of course. We have had it for years, 
everyone knows that. I myself spoke to 
the greatest parapsychologist of them 
all shortly after I was made. It is a 
source of satisfaction; not every robot 
can say he talked with Todd.” 

Danny started. Todd here? But — 
“Yes, I did,” the machine said, a note 
of petulance in its voice. “Actually and 
literally." 

Wait a minute, Danny thought. Some- 
thing was screwy here. This sequence 
was miles away from anything the PRS 
would set going. 

But of course there would be some 
overlapping. That was the whole se- 
cret of the sequences. This one had a 
Todd in it. It probably also had a Dan- 
ny Caiden in it. But they were as yet 
only fractionally real. 

Danny felt a queer pang of regret. 
The probability was that this sequence 
was as remote from the main line as 
the others. Yet it was peaceful and pros- 
perous apparently. It might be that 
some time in the future some elements 
of it might appear along the main line. 

“I'll be — shuffling along,” Danny said. 
“I’ve got to go up a step. Do you mind 
if I step on your tread ?” 

“You’re climbing a sigma sequence?” 
the machine said. “That explains it. 
Some of us have suspected that we were 
not of a very high order of probability. 
I would advise you not to enter the next 
highest term. There is no Earth there.” 
“No Earth?” 

“No,” said the machine. “It will have 
been vaporized. A premature detona- 
tion of the Bethe effect. There is no 
Solar System either, for the shock 
wave of radiation from the Earth caused 
the sun to go nova.” 

“Oh, brother,” Danny said. “They’ve 
really got me stopped then. I’ll have to 
back down.” Even as the words left 
his mouth, he realized that he didn’t 
know how. 

“But it is not necessary to take a 
physical step to change frames,” the 
machine said. “Cannot you teleport 



yourself across the gap?” 

“Can’t risk it,” Danny said. “I’d be 
detected.” 

The machine sat silent and motionless 
in the humming hall. When it was not 
speaking it was hard to believe in its 
sentience. Finally it said, “It is for- 
bidden me to use psi functions except 
in the operation of the matrix-engine. 
However, you are a formulation out of 
the matrix-series and cannot but be a 
disturbing factor. I will risk canceling 
you out. I do not estann that they will 
junk me for it.” 

Before Danny had decided whether 
or not he wanted to be canceled the 
great hangar vanished. 

Five. 

F OUR inches from his nose, a glit- 
tering webwork of some intangible 
force hung. He could see nothing else. 
He tried to move, and the webwork 
flowed. It sheathed his whole body like 
a fiery cocoon. He could barely breathe. 
A harsh voice said, “Gotcha!” 

The webbwork dimmed. Then it 
seemed to crawl and evaporate. A tall, 
hawk-nosed man with an unruly shock 
of blue-black hair was leaning against 
a table across a small, low-ceilinged 
room. In his hand he held a pistol-like 
object surmounted by a small square 
of mirror, neatly bisected by cross- 
hairs. 

The man’s triumphant expression 
changed slowly. He said, “You’re not 
Berentz ! Where is he?” 

“I never heard of him,” Danny said. 
He looked around. The small room was 
a laboratory of some kind but none of 
the apparatus was familiar. “I’m just a 
transient. Point that thing the other 
way will you?” 

The tall man lowered the gun inde- 
cisively. “Is this some trick?” he said 
hoarsely. “No one but Berentz had a 
translation permit. We have thought- 
sealed guarantees from kinetetrons on 
four planets and a Prediction to boot. 
If you’re making a Crossing illegally — ” 
“If what I’m doing is making a 
Crossing it’s a cinch it’s illegal,” Dan- 
ny said. “Luckily I don’t know what 
you’re talking about. Who is this 
Berentz?” 

“Image-librarian for the Geronti- 
cists Charged with wholesale theft of 
alternate identities, and smuggling. 
Who are you, may I ask?” 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 55 



Danny scratched his head. Any an- 
swer he could make might prove as in- 
comprehensible to the tall man as the 
tall man’s talk was to Danny. He said 
cautiously, “I’m from another set of 
sequences.” 

“Oh. Why didn’t you say so? You 
romantics — always looking for ultimate 
reality. When are you going to learn 
that no sequence is stable?” He began 
to pace. “But you’ve upset my calcu- 
lations and Berentz is probably out of 
range by now. It’s a nasty business — 
that Tyrannosaur he turned loose on 
Ophe has walled off the whole star- 
cluster.” 

Danny was interested in spite of him- 
self. “Tyrannosaur? From the past?” 

“Where else would he have got it?” 

“But they were supposed to have 
been stupid — brains the size of walnuts 
and so on.” 

“They were,” the tall man said 
moodily. “But that was milnes ago 
when the time-rate didn’t permit of 
physiochemical processes fast enough 
to sponsor intelligence. Put a man with 
the brains of a Caiden — ” 

“I beg your pardon?” 

“Sorry — I forgot. No such person in 
your sequence, of course. He’s a topo- 
logical astrographer, a very difficult 
discipline. But put him back in the Car- 
boniferous Age and he wouldn’t think 
any better than a dinosaur. The energy- 
level of the plenum then wouldn’t have 
permitted it. By the same token 
Berentz’ Tyrannosaur is a shrewd arti- 
cle in our time. It’s difficult to explain 
if your sequence doesn’t have the Milne 
cosmology.” 

There was a puff of air to Danny’s 
left. Another man stood in the room. 
He was an exact duplicate of the tall, 
black-haired man. And he had a gun. 

“Hello, Zed,” he said. 

The first man looked him up and 
down. He said at last, “So you’ve stolen 
my alternate too, Berentz? You can 
congratulate yourself. Now they will 
never try you.” 

“I know,” Zed’s duplicate said. He 
grinned wolfishly. “The double- jeopardy 
law.” He looked at Danny. “Yon have 
quaint friends. I don’t like witnesses.” 
He swung the gun on Danny and pulled 
the trigger. 

The setting of the resonator pre- 
vented Danny from doing anything else 
about it — he had time to hurl Berents 



back into the previous sequence, the 
one where there was no Earth at all 
before the charge struck him — 

Six. 

There was nothing here — not black- 
ness, but something deper than black- 
ness. Absolutely empty space. There 
were no words to describe that empti- 
ness. Even a man who had been out 
between the stars could not have de- 
scribed it, for space-time is a plenum, 
a fulness, awash with the steady beat- 
ing of electromagnetic and gravitic im- 
pulses, crammed to bursting with posi- 
trons, expanding like a balloon with 
the pressure of its fullness. Here there 
was only empty space. 

After a long time Danny realized 
that he had reached his goal. This was 
the sequence that the Brotherhood of 
the PRS had emptied of meaning — the 
sequence it had emptied of the very 
tissue of space- time. Without that 
ground-matrix, the psi faculties were 
helpless. 

The PRS could license favored people 
to access to new sequences or deny 
licenses at will. Probably this sequence 
was an end-product — not what would 
prevail in the PRS now, but what the 
PRS would establish centuries hence. 

And in it Danny and Todd alike were 
trapped. 



CHAPTER XI 
Dark Victory 



ANNY turned helplessly in the 
emptiness. A faint twinge of dizzi- 
ness told him that he still had his 
physical body; the semi-circular canals 
of his inner ear were registering shifts 
in the inertia of the fluid they con- 
tained. The resonator then was still on 
the job. It was holding him firmly fixed 
to a single frame of this sequence as 
it had held him in the others. 

A glimmer of light began in the void. 
It grew. It was a human face. 

It became Mall. 

The vast lips opened and a soundless 
voice said, “Your death is long delayed, 
Danny.” 

“I'm not dead yet,” Danny said dog- 
gedly. 

The glowing face smiled. “Your 





THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



56 

death is no longer necessary. My pre- 
dictions show that you cannot escape 
from this space. But I will not risk your 
flouting my predictions again.” 

The face drew closer, the narrow 
eyes glowing white-hot. 

In that timeless instant, Danny re- 
membered. In his memory was the deso- 
lation and terror of a world where 
there were no men and the savage 
loneliness of a carrion crow which had 
fed long ago upon its last victim. Two 
soldiers upon a high tower moved in 
his memory, accepting as normal the 
teleportation of armies. 

A tentacled metal being upon cater- 
pillar treads murmured, “A formulation 
out of the matrix-series . . . disturbing 
factor . . . cancel . . .” In a skipped se- 
quence the roiling of the hydrogen- 
helium process that was the Bethe re- 
action stirred thin gases that had once 
been Earth. And a hawk-nosed man re- 
minded Danny that no sequence was 
ultimately stable. 

All this was concentrated by the 
resonator into a single frame. Danny 
marshaled it, and launched it. The 
glowing face of Mall twisted and van- 
ished. 

But Danny could feel Mall’s presence, 
gathering itself. Mall had been able to 
defeat Sean and the last blow that 
Danny could strike had been launched. 
Mall was still alive somewhere. He was 
coming back. 

The darkness began to rock. Far 
away there was a pinpoint of light. 
Mali’s face grew in the invisible tur- 
moil. This time he was not shouting 
for Sir Lewis and Schaum and the 
others. His eyes burned destruction 
through the universe. 

A sound like the ripping of metal 
screamed out somewhere behind the 
swelling head. A jagged line of light, 
like lightning frozen in mid-stroke, 
split the blackness. Then the divided 
sable curtain was torn aside, and light 
and reality spilled through. 

In the rent Todd rode a machine. It 
was half searchlight and half siege-gun. 
Todd crouched over it in the stirrups 
of a bucket-seat. 

“Danny! Hold, him,:” 

The resonator was hot in Danny’s 
hand. Somehow he got the cover off it, 
and the second screw turned to its final 
point. The blackness faded, and the 
sequences that he had visited took their 



proper fractional reality in his mind. 
That reality was partial — but it was 
real. The inane sequence cracked and 
fell away. Mall staggered on the floor 
of the attic and fought for a foothold. 

“Hold him!” 

The sixfold impulse, backed by the 
power of Sean’s resonator, slammed 
out at Mall. The blow was not quite 
enough. Still Mall came across the floor 
boards, one painful step after another. 

The machine that Todd was riding 
swung down upon him. A vortex of 
dancing lights fountained out of it. 

For an instant Mall was silhouetted 
against that impossible fountain. Then 
shadow-figures of Mall began to bleed 
away from his rigid body by the hun- 
dreds, by the thousands. 

After awhile there was nothing left 
of Mall — nothing at all. 

“Scattered,” Todd said calmly. “One 
integer in every sequence — but no con- 
centration on the main line. He’s only 
a spread of characteristics now — a ma- 
trix in probability. He can never be in- 
tegrated again.” 

Danny looked around the garret. It 
was empty except for Todd and the 
machine. 

"There’s still Sean,” he said at last. 
"Where did they have you? I’d thought 
you were in that empty space.” 

“I was,” Todd said, “but in the be- 
ginning of it. You and Mall were fight- 
ing at the end of it. They had figured 
that I wouldn’t be able to operate di- 
rectly on the serial universe — I have no 
talent for it, it seems — but they forgot 
that I could assemble machinery to act 
for me. 

"They hid me in their own labo- 
ratories, along the beginning of their 
own sequence. It was the best thing 
they could have done. I’ll never be a 
psi-man but you’d be surprised at the 
way I can throw the psi forces about 
when I have proper equipment!” 

"Nothing surprises me,” Danny said. 
“Not now. But we’ll need Sean. And 
Marla. We still have to bring the se- 
quence Sean wanted onto the main 
line.” 

“We just did,” Todd said. “This is it.” 

F OR a moment Danny stood stunned. 

“Are you sure?” he said at last. 
“By the way, are we on the main line 
now or aren’t we?” 

“Yes, to both,” Todd said. “The de- 




LET THE FINDER BEWARE! 57 



struction of Mall reduces the PRS se- 
quence to a very low order of prob- 
ability. He was their key man. I confess 
I had no hope of your getting this far 
or being able to pin Mall down for 
me when you did. But the energy I ex- 
pended in scattering him has estab- 
lished the sequence your friend wanted 
very solidly on the main line.” 

The scientist patted the machine 
affectionately. “This thing was intend- 
ed to drag what I’d learned out of me — 
a finished version of our barber's-chair- 
cum-encephalograph. They didn’t ex- 
pect you to get so far either or they’d 
never have left me alone with it.” 
“There’s probably another reason,” 
Danny said thoughtfully. “If you stick 
yourself off in a sequence where your 
wishes are already fact you aren’t 
going to be able to foresee actual out- 
comes. No wonder Mall’s ‘predictions’ 
didn’t work out. They were just pro- 
jected wishes.” 

He turned. The stairway to the first 
floor was behind him. It was just a 
simple stairway, with nothing to show 
that it had been a well of confusion a 
few moments before. A smell of burned 
insulation and hot ozone came up it. 
Danny chuckled. 

“Whatever it was that created that 
field it’s burned out but good,” he said. 
“Let’s go — we’ve still got a score to 
settle with Sir Lewis." 

But the downstairs rooms were de- 
serted. Danny prowled through them. 
In the largest of all the nap of the car- 
pet was pressed flat in several spots, 
in regular rectangles. Danny scuffed at 
one of them with the toe of his shoe. 

“Those are what I wanted,” he said 
gloomily. “Their files. It didn’t hit me 
before but must have been the PRS 
that was playing precognition on the 
market.” He fell silent, exploring the 
area with the psi faculties. Previous 
frames showed the filing cabinets all 
right. The electrons of carpet and wall 
"remembered” them. 

Then, dimly at first, the same pattern 
began to show through elsewhere; an- 
other, and very familiar electronic area 
was recording the presence of the cabi- 
nets. He was tantalizingly close to 
recognizing it but the picture would not 
come all the way through — 

“Danny.” 

“Um?” 

“Come here a minute. Is this the man 



you called Sean?” Todd was standing 
in the doorway to the cellar. With a 
sudden chill of anticipation, Danny 
followed him down the steps. 

Sean was lying on a collapsible pallet 
toward the back of the cement-walled 
room. He was dead. 

“I’m surprised,” Danny said bitterly, 
“that they didn’t take the body with 
them. I’m going to place charges against 
Sir Lewis as an accessory.” 

“How can you? I gather you were an 
eye-witness but from the looks of the 
wound they must have got him in some 
way the courts wouldn’t believe.” 

“It could as easily have been a hot 
poker,” Danny said savagely. “They 
must have had some other reason.” 

Todd bent over the body and lifted 
it, at first gently, then with all his 
strength. “I — see why,” he panted. “He 
can't be lifted. He must have done it 
himself, somehow, before he died. He’s 
got about ten tons of inertia, at a 
guess.” 

Danny tried it himself. The body 
would not move by a fraction of an 
inch. Suddenly Danny guessed the 
truth. Carefully he explored the dead 
man’s mind. 

The key was deeply buried, almost 
masked by the rapid disintegration of 
the brain cells. But once he hit it the 
tight knot of energy was unmistakable. 
It was triggered to Danny and to no 
one else. The moment he reached it, it 
dissipated. 

“That does it,” Todd said, moving 
Sean's hand experimentally. “He locked 
himself down here for you?” 

“Yes. He was a great man, Dr. Todd. 
He spoke of two great problems that 
his group was working on. One of them 
was a sort of psychic fission effect — the 
same thing, I think, that you accom- 
plished with Mall. He didn’t mention 
the other one but I know now what it 
must have been.” 

“What?” Todd said quietly. 

“Death.” 

He turned, his mind reaching out 
again for the electronic “set” of the 
filing cabinets. The PRS building was 
a logical guess but a wrong one. Why 
was the new location so maddeningly 
familiar? 

And then he had it. The files were in 
his own apartment. Sean must have 
stolen them the moment he had got into 
thd hide-out and teleported them back*. 




58 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 

Small wonder that the PRS had cut and "No, doggone it !*’ she said. “Do some- 



run when Todd had been freed. 

T HE reception Danny got at the 
apartment was nothing short of 
royal. The place was full of F.B.I. men, 
and the F.B.I. men’s hands were full 
of papers. By the looks of" the place, 
they must have been rifling the files for 
hours. The agent Danny had seen be- 
fore grinned at him from the big chair. 

“Neat trick,” he said. “How did you 
do it?” 

“I had help,” Danny said. “I’m not 
under arrest?” 

“Technically, technically,” the F.B.I. 
man said, waving the matter away. 
"But only as a witness. The stuff here 
will satisfy the Grand Jury for a long, 
long time. Do you know where we can 
lay hands on Garter?” 

“No,” Danny said. “And I doubt that 
you could keep him in jail for ten 
minutes.” 

“Because he’s a teleport?” 

Danny’s eyes widened. “Don’t tell me 
you accept that!’ 

“I was here,” the agent said a trifle 
grimly, “when these cabinets arrived 
out of thin air. I have to believe what 
I see, especially when I’ve got a broken 
toe to back it up.” 

Danny remembered the resonator. 
He took it out and handed it over. “I 
won’t be needing this any more,” he 
said. "Dr. Todd can show you how to 
build more. It’s kept a better man than 
Sir Lewis in the pokey.” 

“You’re bragging,” Todd said. “But 
you’re right. Where’s Marla?” 

“Hiding in the closet,” Danny said. 
Marla came out, pouting. “You and 
your darned trickery,” she said. “How 
can a woman have any secrets from a 
man like that?” 

"A woman with a guilty conscience 
has no business dallying with a tele- 
path,” Danny said, grinning. 

“You can just go — go — ” She seemed 
unable to think of anything likely to 
prove fatal to Danny. She stomped out 
of the room. Danny followed. When she 
stopped indecisively, Danny plucked at 
her sleeve. 

“I’m sorry, Marla. I was only teas- 
ing.” 

“Prove it,” she said, a dangerous 
glint in her eye. 

“How? Shall I throw some furniture 
around ?” 



thing simple that a girl can understand, 
for once, instead of scaring her into 
fits.” 

Danny made a hollow tube of his 
tongue and made a noise like a turtle- 
dove. As an afterthought he drew out 
the glass tube from one of his emperor- 
sized cigarettes and made a noise like 
a steamboat whistle. The glint simply 
became more dangerous than ever. 

“Well,” Danny said, “I can only think 
of one other expedient.” He kissed her 
soundly. 

S OME moments later Marla removed 
his arms firmly, and stepped back 
against the wall. “You’ve got to realize, 
Danny, that I’m serious about this 
psychic business,” she said. “I’d be 
scared, living with it.” 

“But Marla — there’s nothing abnor- 
mal about the psi faculties. Everybody 
has them to some degree.” 

“I don’t want any part of them,” 
Marla said. “If you really want me to 
marry you you’ll have to give them up, 
Danny. I don’t want to be a stinker 
about it but I can’t help myself. It 
scares me too much.” 

“How do you give up an ability?” 
Danny asked reasonably. “It would be 
like giving up my eyesight. I’m not even 
sure it could be done. Surgery might do 
it but it would probably make an idiot 
of me now that full cortical connections 
have been established.” 

He added dubiously, “You see how, 
it is. But anyhow I could be careful not 
to teleport anything or use any kind of 
psychokinesis or extra-sensory percep- 
tion around you — it’s probable that I 
won’t have the chance at a sigma- 
sequence again.” 

Marla stamped her foot and turned 
her back on him. 

Danny swallowed. 

“Have it your way,” he said. He went 
back into the apartment. Not even the 
psi faculties were much good for under- 
standing a woman. 

A moment later, through a gray fog 
of disappointment, he heard her calling 
in a small voice through the door. 
“Danny.” 

"Yes?” 

“Please come back out again.” She 
sounded slightly strangled. "And kiss 
me again. Only this time open the door 
before you walk through it!" 





A Blade of Grass 



By RAY BRADBURY 



I T HAD been decided already that ist,” said Kront. “I recommend the 
Ultar was guilty. The members of Rust!” 
the Council sat, luxuriously relaxing as “The Rust?” exclaimed Ome. “Isn’t 
the attendants lubricated and oiled their that too drastic ?” 
viselike hands and their slender metal Kront thrust his alloyed skull-case 
joints. forward. 

Kront was most vehement of the sev- “No. Not for ones like him. He’ll un- 
enteen. His steel hand snapped and his dermine the entire Obot State before 
round gray visuals flamed red. he’s finished.” 

“He’s an insufferable experimental- "Come now,” suggested Lione, philo- 

Robot Scientist Ultar Rediscovers Protoplasm! 

59 






60 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



sophieally. “It would be better to short- 
circuit him for a few years, as punish- 
ment. Why be so sadistic and bitter 
about it, Kront?” 

“In the name of the Great Obot !” 
said Kront. “Don’t you see the danger? 
Experimenting with protoplasm!” 

“I agree,” said one of the others. 
“Nothing is too severe a punishment. If 
Ultar insists on concluding his present 
experiments, he may undermine a civ- 
ilization that has existed for three hun- 
dred thousand years. Take Ultar out to 
sea, unoiled, and fully aware. Drop him 
in. It will take him many years to Rust, 
and he will be aware, all of those years, 
of crumbling and rusting. Be sure that 
his skull-case is intact, so his aware- 
ness will not be short-circuited by wa- 
ter.” The others tremb led a quiet, metal, 
hidden trembling. 

Kront swayed to his feet, his oblong 
face gleaming ice-blue and hard. “I want 
a show of opinion, a vote. The Rust for 
Ultar. Vote!” 

There was an indecisive moment. 
Kront’s fifteen feet of towering, alloyed 
metal shifted uneasily in the lubrication 
cell. * 

Vises came up, arms came up. Six at 
first. Then four more. Ome and five oth- 
ers declined to vote. Kront counted the 
vises with an instantaneous flare of his 
visuals. 

“Good. There’s an express rocket for 
Ultar’s laboratory in one hundred sec- 
onds from Level CV. If we hurry we’ll 
make it!” 

Huge, magnetic plates clung to the 
floor as metal bodies heaved upward 
with oiled quiet. 

They hurried to a wide portal. Ome 
and lie five dissenters followed. He 
stopped Kront at the portal. “There’s a 
thing I want to ask you, Kront” 
“Hurry. We haven’t time.” 

“You’ve — seen it.” 

"Protoplasm?” 

"Yes. You’ve looked at it?” 

Kront nodded. “Yes. I have seen.” 
Ome said, “What is it like ?” 

Kront did not answer for a long mo- 
ment and then he said., very slowly. “It 
is enough to freeze the motion of all Obot 
Things. It is horror. It is unbelievable. 
I think you had better come and see this 
for yourself.” 

Ome deliberated. ‘Til come.” 

“Hurry then. We have fifty seconds.” 
They followed the others. 



T HE sea lay quietly as a huge, pallid- 
ly relaxed hand. In the vein and ar- 
tery of that vast hand nothing moved 
but the gray blood tides. Moved silently 
and with the motion of one lunar tide 
against another. The deeps were not 
stirred by any other thing. The sea was 
lifeless and dear of any gill or eye or 
fin or any moving thing save the soft sea 
dust which arose, filtering, when the 
tides changed. The sea was dead. 

The forests were silent. The brush was 
naked, the trees high and forlorn in a 
wilderness of quiet. There were no bird 
songs, or cracklings of sly animal paws 
in autumnal leaves, there were no loon 
cries or far off calls of moose or chip- 
munk. Only the wind sang little songs 
of memory it had learned three hundred 
thousand years before from things called 
birds. The forest and the land under the 
forest was dead. The trees were dead, 
turned to stone, upright, shading the 
hard stony soil forever. There was no 
grass and no flowers. The land was dead, 
as dead as the sea. 

Now, over the dead land, in the bird- 
less sky, came a metal sound. The sound 
of a rocket singing in the dead air. 

Then it was gone, leaving a vein of 
pale gold powder in its wake. Kront 
and his fellows, on their way to the 
fortress of Ultar. . . . 

A door opened m tin ship landed. 
Kront and the others came forth from 
the ship. 

“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Ul- 
tar, standing in the open portal of the 
laboratory. “I knew you’d bring the 
Council with you, Kront. Step in, all of 
you. I can tell by the immediate tem- 
perature of your bodies, that I am al- 
ready condemned to Rust. We shall see. 
Step in, anyway.” 

The door rang shut behind the Coun- 
cil. Ultar led the way down a tubular 
hall which issued forth into a dark room. 

“Be seated, Obot Rulers. It is an un- 
usual thing, this reception for the Great. 
I am flattered.” 

Kront clicked angrily. "Before you 
die, you must show us this protoplasm, 
so it can be judged and destroyed.” 
"Must I? Must you? Must it?” 
"Where is it?” 

“Here.” 

“Where r 
"Patience, Kront.” 

“I’ve no patience with blasphemers!” 
"That is apparent.” 




A BLADE OF GRASS 



In one corner of the room was a large 
square box, from which a glow illum- 
ined the nearby walls. Over the box 
hung a yellow cloth which hid the con- 
tents from view. 

Ultar, with a certain sure sense of 
the dramatic, moved to this box and 
made several adjustments of heat-dials. 
His visuals were glowing. Grasping the 
yellow cloth, he lifted it up and away 
from the box. 

A hard, rattling tremor passed 
through the group. Visuals blinked and 
changed color. Bodies made an uneasy 
whining of metal. What lay before them 
was not pleasant. They drifted forward 
until they circled the box and peered 
Into it. What they saw was blasphemous 
and sacrilegious and more than horrible. 

Something that grew. 

Something that expanded and built 
upon itself, changed and reproduced. 
Something that actually lived and died. 

Died. 

How silly ! No one need die, ever, ever ! 

Something that could rot away into 
nothingness and run blood and be tor- 
tured. Something that felt and could be 
burnt or hurt or made to feel hot or 
cold. Silly, silly something, horrid, hor- 
rid something, all incomprehensible and 
nightmarish and unpredictable! 

Pink flesh formed six feet tall with 
long, long fleshy arms and flesh hands 
and two long flesh legs. And — they re- 
membered from myth-dreams — those 
two unnecessary things — a mouth and 
nose ! 

O ME felt the silent coggery within 
himself grind slow. It was unbe- 
lievable! Like the half-heard myths of 
an Age of Flesh and Darkness. All those 
little half-truths, rumors, those dim lit- 
tle mutterings and whispers of creatures 
that grew instead of being built ! 

Who ever heard of such blasphemy? 
To grow instead of being built? How 
sould a thing be perfect unless it was 
ftuilt and tendered every aid to perfec- 
tion by an Obot scientist? This fleshy 
pulp was imperfect. The least jar and it 
broke, the least heat and it melted, the 
feast cold and it froze. And as for the 
tmazing fact that it grew, well, what of 
t&at ? It was only luck that it grew to 
%e anything. Sheer luck. 

Not so the inhabitants of the Obot 
State ! They were perfect to begin with 
und grew, paradoxically, more perfect as 



61 

time progressed. It was nothing, nothing 
at all for them to exist one hundred 
thousand years, two hundred thousand 
years. One himself was past thirty- 
thousand, a youth, still a youth! 

But — flesh? Depending upon the 
whims of some cosmic Nature to give it 
intellect, health, longevity? How silly a 
joke, how pointless, when it could be 
installed in parcels and packages, in 
wheels and cogs and red and blue wires 
and sparkling currents ! 

“Here it is,’' said Ultar, simply, and 
with pride. He said it with a firmness 
that was unafraid. “A body of bone and 
flesh and blood and fantasy.” 

There was a long silence in which the 
metal whining did not cease among the 
stricken Council. There was hardly a 
flicker of movement among them. They 
stared. 

Ome said, “It is frightening. Where 
did you get it?” 

“I made it.” 

“How could you bring yourself to 
think of it?” 

“It is hard to say. It was long ago. 
Ten thousand years ago, when I was 
walking over the stony forests, alone, 
one day, as I have often done, I found 
a blade of grass. Yes, one last small 
blade of green grass, the last one in all 
of this world. You can’t imagine how un- 
bearably excited I was. I held it up and 
I examined it and it was a small green 
miracle. I felt as if I might explode into 
a million bits. I took the grass blade 
home with me, carefully, and telling no 
one. Oh, what a beautiful treasure it 
was.” 

“That was a direct violation of the 
law,” said Kront. 

“Yes, the law,” said Ultar remember- 
ing. “Three hundred thousand years ago 
when we burned the birds in the air, like 
cinders, and killed the foxes and the 
snakes in their burrows, and killed fish 
in the sea, and all animals, including 
man — ” 

“Forbidden names !” 

“Remembered names, nevertheless. 
Remembered. And then we saw the 
forests still grew and reminded us of 
growing things, so we turned the for- 
ests to stone, and killed the grass and 
flowers, and we've lived on a barren 
stony world ever since. Why, we even 
destroyed the microbes that we couldn’t 
see, that’s how afraid we were of grow- 
ing things'.” 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



62 

K RONT rasped out, “We weren’t 
afraid !’’ 

“Weren’t we? Never mind. Let me 
complete my story. We shot the birds 
from the sky, sprayed insects from the 
air, killed the flowers and grass, but 
yet one small blade survived and I found 
it and brought it here, and nurtured it, 
and it grew for hundreds of years until 
it was ten million blades of grass which 
I studied because it had cells that grew. 
I cannot tell you with what excitement 
I greeted the blossoming of the first 
flower." 

“Flower!’’ 

"A little thing. A blue flower, after a 
a thousand years of experiment. And 
from that flower more flowers, and from 
those flowers, five centuries later, a 
bush, and from that bush, four hundred 
years later, a tree. Oh, it’s been a 
strange long time of working and watch- 
ing, I’ll tell you.’’ 

“But this," cried Kront. “How did it 
evolve to this?” 

“I went looking. I scoured the world. 
If I found one precious blade of grass, 
I reasoned, then perhaps I can find an- 
other thing, a lizard that had escaped, 
or a snake, or some such thing. I was 
more than lucky. I found a small 
monkey. From there to this is another 
thousand years and more. Artificial 
breeding, insemination, a study of genes 
and cells, well, it is here now, and it is 
good.” 

"It is forbidden!” 

"Yes. Damnably forbidden. Look, 
Ome, do you know why flesh was eradi- 
cated from the Earth?” 

Ome deliberated. “Because it threat- 
ened Obot Rule.” 

“How did it threaten it?” 

“With the Rust.” 

“With more than the Rust,” replied 
Ultar, quietly. “Flesh threatened us 
with another way of life and thought. 
It threatened us with delightful imper- 
fection, unpredictability, art, and liter- 
ature, and we slaughtered flesh and 
made it blasphemy and forbidden to see 
flesh or speak of it.” 

"Liar !” 

“Am I?” demanded Ultar. “Who 
owned the world before us?” 

“We’ve always owned it. Always.” 
“What about flesh? Explain it?” 

“It was an experiment that got away 
from us for a time. Some insane Obot 
scientist created monster flesh and it 



bred, and it was the servant of the 
Obots, and it overthrew Obot Rule for a 
time. Finally, the Obots had to destroy 
it.” 

“Religious dogmatism!" replied Ul- 
tar. “You’ve been taught to think that. 
But, know the truth. There must’ve been 
a Beginning, do you agree?” 

“Yes. There was a Beginning. The 
Book of Metal says that all the Universe 
was turned out on one Lathe of one 
Huge Machine. And we the small Obots 
of that Lathe and that Machine.” 
“There had to be a first Obot, did 
there not?” 

“Yes.” 

“And who built him?” 

“Another machine.” 

"But before that, at the very begin- 
ning? Who built the machine that built 
the Obot? I’ll tell you. Flesh. Flesh built 
the first machine. Flesh once ruled this 
continent and all continents. Because 
flesh grows. Machines do not grow. They 
are made piece by piece — they are built. 
It took a growing creature to build 
them !” 

Ome went wild. “No, no. That is a 
terrible thought !” 

“Listen,” said Ultar. “We could not 
stand man and his imperfect ways. We 
thought him silly and ridiculous with his 
art and music. He could die. We could 
not. So We destroyed him because he 
was in the way, he cluttered up our per- 
fect universe. And then, we had to lie 
to ourselves. In our own way we are 
colossally vain. Just as man fashioned 
God in his own image, so we had to 
fashion our God in our image. We 
couldn’t stand the thought of Man be- 
ing our God, so we eradicated every 
vestige of protoplasm on Earth, and 
forbade speaking of it. We were Ma- 
chines, made by Machines, that was the 
All, and the Truth.” 

He was finished with his speaking. 
The others looked at him, and at last 
Kront said, “Why did you do it? Why 
have you made this thing of flesh and 
imperfection ?” 

“Why?” Ultar turned to the box. 
“Look at him, this creature, this man, 
so small, so vulnerable. His life is worth 
something because of his very vulnera- 
bility. Out of his fear and terror and 
uncertainty he once created great art, 
great music and great literature. Do 
we? We do not. 

“How can a civilization create when 




A BLADE OF GRASS 63 



it lives forever and nothing is of value? 
Things only take value from their eva- 
nescence, things are only appreciated 
because they vanish. How beautiful a 
summer day is that is only one of a kind ; 
you all have seen such days — one of the 
few things of beauty that we know, the 
weather, which changes. We do not 
change, therefore there is no beauty and 
no art. 

“See him here, in his box, dreaming, 
about to wake. Little frightened man, 
on the edge of death, but writing fine 
books to live long after. I’ve seen those 
books in forbidden libraries, full of love 
and tenderness and terror. And what 
was his music but a proclamation 
against the uncertainty of living and the 
sureness of death and dissolution? What 
perfect things came from such imperfect 
creatures. They were sublimely delicate 
and sublimely wrong, and they waged 
wars and did many bad things, which 
we, in our perfectness cannot under- 
stand. 

“We cannot understand death, really, 
for it is so rare among us, and has no 
value. But this man knows death and 
beauty and for that reason I created 



him so that some of the beauty and un- 
certainty would return to the world. 
Only then could life have any meaning 
to me, little as I can appreciate it with 
my limited faculties. 

“He had the pleasure of pain, yes, 
even pain a pleasure, in its own way, 
for it is feeling and being alive; he lived, 
and he ate, which we do not do, and 
knew the goodness of love and raising 
others like himself and he knew a thing 
called sleep, and in those sleepings he 
dreamed, a thing we never do, and here 
he is now, dreaming fine things we could 
never hope to know or understand. And 
you are here, afraid of him and afraid 
of beauty and meaning and value.” 

The others stiffened. Kront turned to 
them and said, “Listen, all of you. You 
will say nothing of what you’ve seen 
today, you will tell no one. Understand?” 
The others swayed and moaned in a 
dazed, wavering anger. 

The sleeper in the long oblong box 
stirred, fitfully, the eyelids quivered, the 
lips moved. The man was waking. 

“The Rust!” screamed Kront, rush* 
ing forward. “Seize Ultar! The Rust! 
The Rust!” 



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vo. 





A sequel to "The Alien Machine 1 
in which Cal Meacham's new 
job is an engineer's heaven , 
until he's led to peer beneath — 



the Shroud of Secrecy 



CHAPTER I 
End of a Dream 

H E must have slept during part of 
that fantastic night flight. He 
could remember only the incessant thun- 
der of the engine in front of him and 
the starlit sky of night above. He re- 
membered the tumultuous flashes of 
lightning as the ship skirted a vast thun- 
der storm and his fear of being plunged 
into its depths. But the ship had steered 
past, far off course, and then returned 
to its heading like some sentient thing. 

Now daylight was racing him out of 
the east, lighting the cirrus miles above 
him and shading the desert below. Still 
the ghostly ship gave no sign of slowing 
its determined flight. 

His hands and feet searched with in- 
voluntary constancy for the absent con- 
trols. It gave him a sick sense of help- 



less imprisonment when he considered 
that utterly blank cockpit in which he 
rode. Not a control, not a single instru- 
ment — only the thunder of the motor 
and the propeller and the shriek of the 
air. 

He looked over the edge at the bright- 
ening landscape below. About eight 
thousand feet up, he thought. He 
strained to recognize, familiarity in the 
terrain below. It looked like cattle coun- 
try. It might be Oklahoma, Texas, New 
Mexico or Arizona. Distant cliffs of 
shining vermilion made him fairly cer- 
tain that it was a Southwest region, 
probably in one of the latter two states. 

While the sun overtook him Cal 
Meacham watched the passage of tiny 
towns, the puff of occasional whirlwinds 



a novelet by RAYMOND F. JONES 

65 



S6 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



on the desert, the creeping cars that 
sometimes appeared on a distant high- 
way. 

Then, suddenly, the plane dipped. In a 
moment of involuntary panic, Cal 
reached for the absent stick, listened 
critically to the thunder of the motor. 
Twisting around, he glanced at the ele- 
vators. They were .depressed to lose al- 
titude. 

He scanned the horizon ahead and Hie 
vast empty land below. Fat hompa of 
mountains projected from the desert. 
Then he saw in the distance the haze 
that hovered over some desert city. The 
ship seemed to be heading for it. 

He did not know this country well. 
There was no familiarity about it. As the 
plane approached the town he saw that 
he was not headed directly for it after 
all. The ship was going north towards 
a small valley that lay on the other side 
of low humped mountains. 

In the valley were a cluster of build- 
ings. Several hundred houses surround- 
ed a plant composed of four long blank- 
walled structures and a fifth, much larg- 
er, that was in the process of construc- 
tion. 

The plane soared over the plant and 
circled twiee. A small landing field was 
just west of the four buildings. There 
was a hangar there with a sock hanging 
limp in the windless air. Nearby was a 
small building that erouched beneath a 
giant antenna, a great bowl-like screen 
that turned slowly on gimbals, ever 
pointing — straight toward the little 
plane in which he rode. 

The control, he thought — All through 
those dark hours this mass of metal had 
been the mysterious beacon that guided 
the plane. 

There were a half dozen men watch- 
ing the ship from the field but not with 
any apparent curiosity. They had the 
appearance of waiting for a routine 
flight to be completed. 

Dust spurted from the earth as the 
wheels touched. Cal watched the flaps go 
down and sensed the dragging hand that 
slowed the ship. It taxied up to the apron 
before the hangar. The motor died and 
grunted to a stop in the shadow of the 
great bowl of the guiding antenna. 

I T was like the end of a dream in 
which a sense of sleep still prevails 
over the senses. He saw the men ap- 
proaching, saw their mouths move in 



greeting, but he made no move to stir. 
One of the mechanics climbed to the 
wing step and shoved the canopy back. 
The fresh coolness of the morning des- 
ert air brushed his face. 

"Did you have a good trip, sir?" The 
mechanic was smiling. Just a kid in 
white overalls, he didn't seem awed by 
the landing of a ship without controls. 

Cal nodded. “No complaint about the 
trip. But I would like to know where this 
is.” 

"That was Phoenix, Arizona, you saw 
coming in. We’re just north of town." 

Cal grunted as he rose stiffly and 
climbed out. "That’s something. I was 
afraid I was going to end up on Cala- 
buluska Island where the meemies eat 
the white people.” 

"I don’t blame you for getting the 
willies out of a ride like that. I don’t 
want any of it myself. The beam is used 
mainly for a lot of other things but I 
guess the Engineer figured he might as 
well use it to pick up new employees as 
well.” 

"The Engineer?” 

"The boss of the whole place. I’ve 
never even seen him myself. He isn’t 
around much. His name is Mr. Jorkov- 
nosnitch or something like that, and he 
doesn’t call himself president or any- 
thing like that, just Engineer. So that’s 
what everybody else calls him too, be- 
cause they forget how to pronounce his 
name.” 

His knees buckled a trifle as Cal 
jumped from the wing to the ground. He 
stood a moment to steady himself and 
looked over the landscape. The people 
looked human. The plant looked like a 
lot of other medium sized industrial 
plants set out near some small city for 
decentralization purposes. 

But the plane behind him, that tower- 
ing beam director that was now stilled 
— these belied the appearance of nor- 
malcy. These and a director who called 
himself simply the Engineer and manu- 
factured devices employing a completely 
alien technology — 

There was a stir among the men. All 
eyes were suddenly directed a short dis- 
tance down the field. When Cal’s fol- 
lowed, he no longer wondered why. A 
slim dark-haired girl was approaching 
them. She wore a white tailored suit 
whose severity was relieved by the gen- 
tle fluffing of her hair as she walked 
swiftly towards them. 




THE SHROUD OF SECRECY 



She held out a hand towards Cal as 
she came up. “I’m Dr. Adams. Dr. Ruth 
Adams,” she added as if to invite a more 
friendly level of acquaintance than that 
stiff “Dr.” would imply. 

“I’m Cal Meacham,” he said, “but I 
suppose you know that — ” 

He stopped awkwardly. The girl's 
hand in his felt icy cold. It was firm and 
competent but — almost imperceptibly — 
it trembled. 

He glanced down. She withdrew it 
quickly and smiled. “I know quite a bit 
about you. I’m assistant in the employ- 
ment department and your files were re- 
ferred to me for analysis. My doctorate 
Is in psychiatry.” 

“Yes — yes,” he said absently. He was 
watching her face, narrowing his field of 
vision to block out the gentle lips, the 
firm molded cheeks, tinted softly with 
desert tan — narrowing to her eyes. They 
were big and soft brown in tone. 

And the utter fear that dwelt in them 
was like an electric shock through his 
body. 

Only when he concentrated on her 
eyes did he get that intense message of 
fear she could not hide. But she was so 
constantly animated that he could not 
long hold to such a narrow field of vi- 
sion. 

He attempted a smile to break the 
awkward pause he had created. “This 
seems to be purely a routine affair to the 
boys here but it’s quite a jolt for me. I’d 
like to know what this is all about. I 
spoke to a man over a device called an 
interocitor. I didn’t learn his name but 
he offered me a job and I took him up 
on it. He sent this pilotless plane for 
me and here I am.” 

“Yes, that was Dr. Warner who spoke 
with you,” said Ruth. Cal found it im- 
possible to think of her as Dr. Adams. 
He dropped the title out of mind and re- 
garded her in terms of first name only. 

“I work under him,” she continued. 
“He selects all engineers. He was so 
pleased by your aptitudes and your work 
that he sent me out personally to bring 
you to him. Ordinary employees rate 
only an office boy.” 

She assumed an attitude of mock 
regality and they burst out laughing to- 
gether. Cal almost forgot the fear he 
had seen in her eyes. 

“I appreciate the special attention,” 
he said. “A freckle-faced office boy cer- 
tainly would have spoiled my day.” 



m 

"Come with me. I’ll take you to Dr. 
Warner now.” 

He found it the most natural thing 
in the world to take her arm lightly as 
she led the way over the dust-covered 
apron of the hangar towards the nearest 
of the four plant buildings. Even in that 
bright sunlight he felt a faint tremor in 
her body — as if with cold. 

D R. WARNER looked much as he 
had on the screen of the interocitor 
tube. A few sparse strands of white hair 
still adhered to the middle of his pate. 
A gently protruding paunch was begin- 
ning to tell the effeets of years at a desk. 
Yet his face had the baby-pink tinge ©f 
a man used' to days out of doors. 

He advanced with outstretched hand 
as soon as Ruth Adams entered his office 
with Cal in tow. “Mr. Meacham!” He 
pumped Cal’s hand vigorously. “Please 
sit down. You too, Ruth. 

“You want to know all about us, ©f 
course,” said Dr. Warner. “You want to 
know our purposes, our means of oper- 
ation, who we are, why we are, what we 
intend to do, what we expect of you and 
in general where you go from here.” 

“I guess that would just about cover 
it,” said Cal. “You’ve been asked those 
questions before.” 

“Many times. And all of them can be 
answered in good time. I think you can 
realize, however, that your initial pe- 
riod here will be in the nature of a pro- 
bation. The answers to your questions 
will be given gradually. I’m sure that’s 
reasonable.” 

“Of course.” 

“I told you that we are an organ- 
ization of engineers and scientists who 
believe that the world could better uti- 
lize the productions of science if scien- 
tists themselves placed some restrictions 
on the use of their talents. Among us are 
those who have been sickened by the use 
that has been made of the products of 
our research. In effect we are on strike 
against such destructive uses. We pro- 
pose to withhold and control the prod- 
ucts of our research from here on. 

“Already, we have uncovered prin- 
ciples and invented devices that the mili- 
tary cliques of the world would give 
their eyes for, provided they knew we 
had them.” 

“But how can such principles be uti- 
lized without being revealed to the mili- 
tary ?” 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



68 

“Some can’t. Those are suppressed. 
Others are released with such controls 
as will insure their proper use. The in- 
terocitor is an example of this.” 

“How?” 

“It is a superb communication device, 
surpassing common radio principles in a 
thousand ways. But it can be instantly 
blanked out or totally destroyed — as you 
witnessed — the moment it is used for 
communicating lying propaganda or 
anything else harmful to the mind of 
man.” 

“You consider yourselves censors of 
all that man does !” 

“No — merely of the uses to which our 
inventions are put. That right of cen- 
sorship is inherent in the invention or 
discovery, we submit. Until now it has 
never been enforced.” 

“That's a pretty big order.” 

Warner smiled. “Sometimes we think 
we are pretty big men. At least we oper- 
ate on that principle with the silent hope 
that we just don't get too big for our 
pants. Somebody had to make the at- 
tempt. We are doing it — and rather suc- 
cessfully so far. The militarists would 
be appalled if they knew the brain 
power that we have succeeded in drain- 
ing away from their murderous proj- 
ects. Including yours — ” 

“I don’t think they will miss me 
much. I was already — on strike, as you 
say.” 

“That’s what I mean. So were thou- 
sands of others. We are men who are not 
interested in science for the sake of 
‘pure’ science, whatever that is. We are 
interested in science as a tool in man’s 
rise from the ape to whatever goal may 
be possible when his vast potentialities 
are fully realized. Those who have not 
come very far from the ape are using 
that tool with destructive effects which 
must be curbed. That sums our entire 
purpose. You are in agreement, of 
course.” 

Cal Meacham nodded slowly. “And 
doubtful of any man’s ability to achieve 
such a purpose — at least in our day." 

“We shall try to convince you as we 
proceed,” said Dr. Warner. “But now 
for your duties here. You have seen the 
plant under construction behind these 
buildings. That is nearly completed and 
is to be an interocitor assembly plant. 
We want to assign you in charge of that 
plant.” 

Cal stared as if he hadn’t heard cor- 



rectly. “In charge — of that plant!” 
“Yes. That is correct.” 

“But I’m just a lab punk. I was only 
a project engineer at Ryberg. I haven’t 
had much of a background for that sort 
of thing.” 

“We’ve investigated your background 
quite thoroughly. We are satisfied with 
your qualifications. You will receive an 
intensive training by the design engi- 
neers who produced the interocitor and 
by the production men now handling it. 
You will be amply prepared for the job. 
You will take it, of course.” 

Cal smiled. “I wish you would put a 
question mark at the end of one of those 
statements about me. I get the uncom- 
fortable feeling you know too much 
about me.” 

“Not too much — enough. We have to. 
And that is about all I can tell you at the 
moment. You will learn other details of 
our operations as you go along. Even- 
tually, you will meet Mr. Jorgasnovara, 
Engineer of the entire project, but it 
may be months. He's an elusive man. 

“Dr. Adams will introduce you to the 
surroundings and your fellow engineers 
and give you directions in beginning the 
training which will be necessary. I need 
not remind you, of course, that your be- 
ing in charge of interocitor assembly is 
only a first step in your progress here 
but it is an important step.” 

Warner rose and extended a hand. 
“It’s been a great pleasure to know you. 
I’ll be constantly available for any ques- 
tions or problems that arise.” 

“Thank you, Dr. Warner.” 



CHAPTER II 
“Peace” Engineers 



I T was almost a letdown — the con- 
trast between his strange introduc- 
tion to the Engineers via the interocitor 
and this seemingly prosaic industrial 
plant here in the desert. Nothing out of 
the ordinary seemed to be going on here 
— nothing, that is, except the manufac- 
ture of the interocitor. And a girl whose 
eyes were haunted with a fear she could 
not always hide. 

She spent the remainder of the morn- 
ing with him. He learned that her psy- 
chiatric work in the employment depart- 



THE SHROUD 

ment was highly essential in testing, 
judging and training the peculiarly 
unique individuals required for work in 
the plant. They went on a tour of the 
plant. Two of the buildings, he found, 
were devoted entirely to development 
engineering. Over five hundred engi- 
neers were employed in scores of proj- 
ects. 

Everything that a researcher could 
desire was at their disposal. The prodi- 
gality of equipment almost made him 
sick when he thought of the penny- 
pinching controls imposed at Ryberg, 
where he’d had to fight tooth and nail 
for every hundred dollars a project cost. 

This was an engineer’s paradise ! 

Ruth Adams sensed what was in his 
mind as he looked over the beautifully 
equipped laboratories. “You’ll enjoy 
working here, I know. There is nothing 
lacking in the way of equipment. Any- 
thing these men want is theirs for the 
whistling.” 

“But it costs heavy money for equip- 
ment like this!” 

“The company is quite profitable. The 
Engineer and other heads are not just 
visionaries. They have adequate finan- 
cial sense to make all this possible.” 

She introduced him to numerous of 
the engineers and section directors. He 
was not surprised to find a number of 
professional acquaintances and personal 
friends among them. 

Among them was Ole Swenberg, a 
big blond- fellow he had known very well 
at college. He had often wondered what 
had happened to Ole. They had not met 
since the war. 

Ole beamed and ran across the lab 
to grasp Cal’s hand when he recognized 
him. 

“By golly, Cal, I thought it was about 
time you were showing up here. The 
way you used to talk when we were in 
school I expected to find you running the 
place.” 

“I hid out. What are you doing here, 
you big Swede?” 

“Any darned thing I please and that’s 
the truth. I don’t have to worry about 
publishing a paper every three weeks in 
some stinking journal — ‘for the prestige 
of the department’ — either. I stayed on 
at college and taught four years before I 
got fed up. What are you geared up 
for?” 

“They tell me I’m going to direct the 
interocitor assembly for a while.” 



OF SECRECY 69 

“Boy, have you got yourself a job! 
That’s hot stuff. They tried to farm it 
out and no plant in the country could 
handle it. That’s why you’ve got it. But 
it’s lunch time. Come on. It’s on me.” 

They followed the garrulous Ole to the 
plant cafeteria, and listened to the ac- 
count of how he was revolutionizing the 
world of science with his discoveries — 
with the small help of the group of Peace 
Engineers as a whole. But lunchtime was 
not long enough for him to finish. 

“Tell you what,” he said, as they fin- 
ished. “How about a small beer bust in 
your diggings tonight? You haven’t told 
me a thing about what you’ve been do- 
ing. Ruth and I’ll come over and give 
you the real lowdown on what you’re in 
for. That okay with you, Ruth?” 

She smiled tolerantly towards Cal. 
“The Swede seems to have it all ar- 
ranged.” 

“Well, that’s fine. Only I don’t have 
any diggings exactly,” said Cal. “What 
do I do in that case?” 

“Oh, you have one of the company 
houses available if you want it unless 
you prefer something in town. But it’s 
more convenient out here,” said Ruth. 

“Suits me.” 

Cal spent the afternoon unpacking 
and getting settled in his new quarters. 
He had two comfortable rooms and a 
kitchenette in case he wanted to do any 
cooking but he expected to take his 
meals at the cafeteria. 

Finished with stowing his gear he 
sank down on the sofa and looked out 
the window towards the strange plant 
where unheard-of technology produced 
gadgets called interocitors. 

It was a weird set-up in some ways 
but for the first time in his life he felt 
completely at ease in his place of work. 
In the industrial plants he’d known, en- 
gineers were constantly shifting from 
one place to another, moving around, 
looking for offers, eternally trying to 
“get somewhere.” 

None of them could ever define that 
njystic goal but they knew the same 
common sense of deep frustration. They 
battled each other, trying to make their 
company’s product cheaper, trying to 
make their electric razor or toaster or 
radio a bit better than their fellow en- 
gineers who worked for other concerns. 
But, like paid gladiators, they felt no 
loyalty except that which was inspired 
by their paychecks. 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



70 

He had run in that professional rat 
race for many years. After college he 
worked for Acme Electric, then he found 
a better offer at Midwest. Corning had 
offered a little more money. He had 
found better working conditions at Colo- 
nial. Then Ryberg had seemed to be a 
better research setup — 

It would have gone on the rest of his 
life. He’d have landed a department di- 
rectorship somewhere. Then maybe he’d 
have married. And that would have been 
the blind alley out of which he could not 
return. After fifty years they would 
have given him a gold watch. 

It was over. The Engineers were no 
gold watch outfit. It was too good to be 
true — too good to last. 

O LE and Ruth knocked on his door 
at eight. Ole had a half dozen 
brown bottles in his hand and Ruth had 
a basket of sandwiches. 

“We knew you’d be hungry,” she said. 
“You don’t look like the cooking type of 
bachelor.” 

“Believe me, I’m not.” 

“See what I told you,” said Ole loudly 
to Ruth. “This is a chance you can’t 
afford to miss.” 

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Ole !” 

Cal smiled and looked from one to the 
other. He wondered how a serene person 
like Ruth Adams happened to be going 
around with the loud-mouthed Ole. 

The sat down and Ole became sud- 
denly serious. “We didn’t come for just 
a social call, Cal.” 

“What then? I thought you liked my 
company. Is this place business twenty- 
four hours a day?” 

“Our kind of business is. What kind 
of an aptitude test did they give you ?” 
“The interocitor. They teased me into 
building one from a catalogue.” 

“Know what mine was? A book that 
made a page-at-a-glance reader out of 
me. I ordered some new texts from a 
company and these things came. I looked 
at a page — and it stuck. Nothing on it 
ever left me. Couldn’t get rid of it if I 
wanted to. The most intricate circuit 
diagrams you can imagine. One glance 
and they’re mine. Pretty neat, eh ?” 
“Sounds wonderful. I’d like to see 
some.” 

“You will. They’re used in parts of 
the training you’ll get. You’ll get a 
brainful of stuff you never dreamed was 
in heaven or earth. 



"When I first got those books I tore 
them apart molecule by molecule to find 
out what made them tick. I never did 
find out but I became a biologist, and 
biochemist as well as an electronics en- 
gineer in the process. The Engineers 
liked my attack, even if it was a failure, 
so they took me on.” 

“Do they have a different test for 
everyone?” 

“No. You’re the first one, however, 
that I’ve known who got the interocitor. 
That’s been top. hush-hush stuff. They 
needed you pretty badly.” 

“I’d like to know more about how 
these Peace Engineers operate. I sup- 
pose I’ll get the dope in time as Warner 
says but I wish you could tell me a little 
more.” 

Ole looked bleak. “Cal, do you believe 
that guff?” 

“What do you mean, guff?” 

“About the Peace Engineers. All this 
phony window dressing.” 

C AL sat up straight on the edge of 
his seat. He felt as if someone had 
dealt him a blow underneath his ribs. 
“What are you talking about? You mean 
this thing isn’t on the level?” 

“Ole — ” Ruth interrupted. “Let me 
talk.” 

“Sure. You can make it sound more 
reasonable.” 

“When I first came here,” she said, “I 
was appalled at the naivete of the sci- 
entists and engineers who make the 
wonderful machines of which our civili- 
zation boasts. 

“Peace Engineers! They knew that 
half the scientists of the country were 
sick at heart after the last war because 
of what had happened through the dis- 
coveries of science. It was the most ob- 
vious bait they could hold out. And the 
best brains in the nation bit on it.” 
“Who are ‘they’?” 

“That’s what we don’t know. Ole and 
I and a dozen or so others of the engi- 
neers have become — to put it mildly — 
suspicious of the whole set-up. And our 
suspicions have frightened us. 

“There is absolutely no organization, 
no society or fraternal group called 
‘Peace Engineers’ as you might expect. 
There is nothing but this plant and a 
group of engineers who work here just 
as in any other industrial plant — that 
and the incredible technology that some- 
one possesses. After all the talk about 




71 



THE SHROUD OF SECRECY 



Peace Engineers there is still nothing 
but — a vacuum. 

“Technology in a vacuum. An incred- 
ibly advanced technology. You know 
more about it than either of us do. Un- 
der what kind of circumstances would it 
be produced?” 

“Time and money — great quantities 
of both would be required. But I sup- 
posed they had both.” 

“Ruth has missed an important 
point,” said Ole “It’s more than technol- 
ogy. There’s new basic science involved. 
Science that speaks of a culture almost 
wholly foreign to anything we know 
about.” 

“I’m inclined to agree with that,” said 
Cal thoughtfully. “But does that pro- 
hibit the Peace Engineers from originat- 
ing it and if so where did it come from?” 

“That’s what scares us. Look at 
what’s happening — the cream of the sci- 
entific brains of the nation are working 
for the Engineers. Suppose they aren’t 
so peaceful in spite of their name? Sup- 
pose that it is really an enormous camou- 
flage for war preparation ? Suppose they 
are giving us minor secrets in return 
for the privilege of milking our scientif- 
ic genius for all they can.” 

“There are two things wrong with 
those arguments. You just got through 
pointing out that these things are not 
exactly minor. In comparison we aren't 
contributing very much in return for 
what we get.” 

“Don’t kid yourself. Our best brains 
being applied to this advanced basic sci- 
ence are producing plenty. And suppose 
that what we have seen is relatively 
minor compared with what we haven’t 
seen?” 

Cal leaned back heavily. “I can’t speak 
from experience yet but I still think 
you’re on the wrong track. An enemy 
could hardly operate like this under the 
nose of our own military.” 

“Who said anything about enemy?” 
said Ole. “Isn’t it just as bad in the long 
run if our own military has corralled 
these brains by this deception? In fact, 
that seems to be the more likely expla- 
nation.” 

“We’re not arguing for any one con- 
clusion,” said Ruth abruptly. “We don’t 
know. We’re simply saying that this 
whole front of Peace Engineer propa- 
ganda is false. We want to know what’s 
in back of it. It scares us to think what 
implications might lie behind this se- 



cretly controlled technology. 

“But we can’t do anything at all about 
it. We can’t go to any authorities and 
tell them we’re scared and ask them to 
investigate the place. There is absolutely 
nothing we can do unless we find out 
who is behind the Peace Engineers.” 

“That’s where we need your help,” 
said Ole. “You’re going to be in a high 
and responsible place around here. If 
anyone is in a position to get behind 
this false front you ought to be able to. 
Will you help us find out what is going 
on here?” 

“No,” said Cal. “The one thing I’ve 
looked for all my life is here. I’m will- 
ing to grant whoever originated this 
technology some rights to secrecy re- 
garding the dispersal of it. I’m going to 
play ball with them until I find out dif- 
ferently and it will take a lot more than 
these suspicions of yours to change my 
mind.” 

“You don’t have to get sore,” said Ole. 
“Just try to find, out. You’ll get curious 
sooner or later. Then you’ll beat your 
head against the stone wall just like the 
rest of us are beginning to do. And then 
maybe you’ll begin to get scared, too, 
when you realize that no one here knows 
a thing about whose hand is behind all 
this.” 

H E wasn’t sore, Cal thought, as he 
lay in the darkness vainly trying 
to sleep long after their departure. He 
wasn’t sore but he was more than irri- 
tated by their jumping him with their 
suspicions on his first night here. 

Certainly, in every organization there 
were soreheads who didn’t like the way 
things went. He would never have sus- 
pected Ole or Ruth of being such, how- 
ever. But he could scarcely be more gen- 
erous after what he had heard from 
them. 

And yet — that wasn’t the whole story 
and he knew it. The fear he had seen in 
those dark eyes of Ruth was a real and 
tangible thing to her. It was no mere 
fantasy. 

He would wait. In one respect they 
might be right. In his position as en- 
gineer in charge of interocitor assembly 
he might have wide opportunity to study 
the organization as a whole. When he 
found the answers to their questions he 
could put their minds at ease. He was 
certain the answers would not be what 
they suspected. 




72 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



CHAPTER III 

Jorgasnovara 



F OR the next six months his days and 
nights were spent in the most inten- 
sive study that he had ever done in his 
life. The engineering specifications and 
basic physical principles behind the in- 
terocitor were thrown open to him. He 
pored over the books — but he was never 
shown any such as Ole had described. 
He built up components, tore them down 
again — until he was certain he could 
build an interocitor blindfolded and with 
one hand tied behind his back. 

In all that time he did not once meet 
the Engineer, Jorgasnovara, although 
the man was pointed out to him. Warner 
had promised that he would be intro- 
duced and Cal wondered when the time 
would come, 

It was a wonderful day when he at 
last saw the assembly lines in full oper- 
ation and tested the first completed 
equipment as it came off the line. He had 
gained skill in executive leadership and 
he had a smoothly running plant that re- 
quired only top direction of the most 
general kind. 

It gave him a breathing spell, a meas- 
ure of freedom to contemplate the sig- 
nificance of what he had accomplished, 
freedom to review his position, freedom 
to question — 

During those busy months he had 
found little time to talk to Ruth. At first 
she’d been his guide in getting him 
acquainted at the plant, but gradually 
his entire time had beer taken up with 
other engineers. It had been five weeks, 
he thought suddenly, since he had even 
seen her. 

He reached for the phone and called 
her extension. 

Her voice was a pleasurable sound in 
his ear. “Ruth ! I thought you would be 
over for the christening. The lines are 
moving.” 

“Hello, Cal. No, I heard about it but 
I was too busy to get over. Dr. Warner 
is very pleased with your success and 
the Engineer thinks highly of your 
work. In fact, I was to call you and let 
you know that he’s coming in and wants 
to talk with you, probably tomorrow.” 
“Well, how about a little delayed cele- 
bration?” 



“Such as what?” 

“Oh, nothing fancy. A dinner in town, 
maybe. Then just go for a ride.” 

For a moment there was no sound 
from the receiver, then she said hesi- 
tantly, “All right, Cal. I'd love to. Pick 
me up at my place. I live in town, you 
know.” 

As he scribbled her address after 
hanging up he reflected that he hadn’t 
known. He hadn’t learned a thing about 
her in all the time he’d been here. He 
didn’t know where Ole fitted in but that 
didn’t worry him much. Ole was a good 
guy but he wasn't for Ruth. 

And Cal found himself wondering 
again about those fears of Ruth. He had 
found absolutely nothing yet to substan- 
tiate them yet he couldn’t forget her 
eyes the way they had looked that first 
day. 

He picked her up at eight. She was 
dressed in a soft gray evening dress and 
wore the tiny orchid he had sent. It was 
utterly impossible to think of an M.D. 
and Ph.D. in that dress. He didn't try. 

There was no hint of distress in her. 
She was pleasant and gay at dinner and 
not once did the talk go back to their 
work at the plant or her feelings about 
the place. 

Afterward he headed the car beyond 
the outskirts of town. They stopped with 
the radio on to watch the moonwashed 
desert. 

But her mood seemed to have changed 
once they left the lights of the restau- 
rant. She settled in silence in the far 
comer of the seat. A panicky thought 
occurred to him that he might have 
offended by stopping. He moved to start 
the car again. 

“Oh, don't, Cal — let’s watch it for a 
while.” 

“I thought — ” he fumbled. 

“I got a letter from Ole today," said 
Ruth abruptly. 

“Why a letter ? Where is he ? I haven't 
seen him for a couple of months but I 
thought he was still around the plant.” 

“No, he’s gone.” She was looking 
straight ahead, her voice ending each 
flat statement with finality as if not 
willing to volunteer more. 

“Why? Where did he go? Was it— 
what you tried to tell me about — that 
night six months ago?” 

She nodded slowly. “Ole found out. I 
wanted you to see him and talk to him. 
Maybe you could have understood what 




THE SHROUD OF SECRECY 73 



he was trying to say. I made an attempt 
to call you but you weren’t there. And 
then they came for Ole and took him 
away. They wouldn’t let me see him 
again — until they had changed him.” 
"Changed him? What are you talking 
about, Ruth? Did they do something to 
Ole?” 

S HE turned slightly towards him so 
that he could see the moonlight full 
on her face. It lent a ghostly radiance 
and heightened the returning fear in 
her eyes. 

"He broke down with hysteria in his 
lab one day,” she said slowly. "Some of 
his assistants brought him in to me. He 
kept babbling about some fearful thing 
he’d seen in the sky but I couldn’t un- 
derstand it. And then for just a moment 
he grew more coherent and said that 
he’d been working on some interocitor 
modifications and suddenly he’d heard 
the Engineer thinking.” 

“Thinking !” 

“That’s the word he used. He was in 
such a state of violent terror that I 
should have given him a quieting hypo 
immediately but that was when I tried 
to get you. I thought maybe you would 
understand. And then they came and 
took him away.” 

"Who?” 

“Warner and a couple of his medical 
assistants. They said they would be able 
to take care of him but they wouldn’t 
let me come along. Afraid he’d get too 
violent, they said.” 

"What happened?” 

"Nothing. I saw Ole the next day. He 
acted as if very little had occurred. He 
refused to talk in detail about what had 
happened and told me he was leaving. 
That was all he would say.” 

"Why didn’t you tell me this before?” 
"I don’t know. I thought perhaps I 
could get more out of Ole later so that 
I would have proof for you — but I 
couldn’t. I guess I shouldn’t have told 
you tonight except that now that Ole’s 
gone I can’t talk to anyone about what 
I think. The others seem to be too ab- 
sorbed in their wonderful laboratory 
privileges to criticize. They’re closing 
their eyes to the suspicions they had.” 
She turned suddenly and looked into 
his eyes. "Cal, won’t you go and see Ole 
and try to find out what he learned?” 

Cal remained silent. What could they 
have done to Ole, he wondered. Did they 



have a method of taking care of dis- 
gruntled employees to keep them from 
talking? Some method that was on a par 
with the rest of this advanced technol- 
ogy? That would explain how their se- 
cret could be so well kept without bene- 
fit of military suppression. 

"I think I’d like to see Ole,” he said. 
“I wish you had told me this before. 
Isn’t it possible they just sent him away 
to keep him from disturbing the morale 
of others with his suspicions?” 

"I don’t doubt that they did ! But that 
doesn’t explain what happened to Ole 
to make him so deathly frightened.” 

"Maybe they arranged that, too.” 

"I could believe that. But what about 
the interocitor? I don’t know anything 
about the physical science involved in 
it — but can you honestly say you know 
everything about the device? Ole didn’t 
think so and it was when he was experi- 
menting on it that he had his fit of hys- 
teria.” 

"Look — nobody can say he knows 
everything about even an ordinary radio 
set.” 

"You know what I mean. A radio has 
a known function and will perform that 
function when it is properly operating. 
But are you absolutely certain you know 
all the proper functions of an interoci- 
tor?” 

"Well — yeah, sure — hang it all, Ruth, 
the jigger is so infernally complicated 
that even while I think I know all about 
it I still can’t say that it might not be 
capable of something I don’t know 
about. But why should I suspect it?” 

“Because the Peace Engineers setup 
Is a phony.” 

“That brings us around in complete 
circle.” 

"You forget what happened to Ole 
when he tried to investigate one. If I’m 
right — and you don’t believe me — I'm 
putting my life in your hands by telling 
you this. I’m sure of that.” 

He reached out and drew her into the 
curve of his arm. He could feel again 
the tension of her body as he had that 
first day they met. 

“Ruth, you’re exaggerating! I’m not 
saying I won’t believe you. Perhaps you 
are right — engineers are simple-minded 
folk who can be fooled by almost any 
kind of make-believe. Armies would still 
fight with swords and slings if it weren’t 
so. 

"On the other hand, because this place 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



74 

is so close to the engineering paradise 
I've always dreamed about I don’t want 
to get kicked out for going around ask- 
ing the top guys if they’ve signed loyalty 
pledges or ever belonged to the Com- 
rades.” 

“You’re laughing at me,” she said 
bitterly. 

“I’m not. I promise you I’ll do every- 
thing I can to find out if you and Ole are 
right. He was my friend. You shouldn’t 
have kept me from knowing what had 
happened to him.” 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d care 
much, really.” 

“I’ll keep my mouth shut around the 
plant but I'll let you know everything I 
find out.” 

“Tomorrow you’ll see the Engineer,” 
she said prophetically. “Then you’ll 
know.” 

H E had once glimpsed the Engineer 
from a distance as the plant direc- 
tor climbed into his personal plane on 
the landing field. From that one glimpse 
he knew the man was big. 

Beyond mere physical size, however, 
there was a sense of bigness. This was 
the first impression that Cal Meacham 
felt when he stood before the Engineer’s 
desk. 

“Sit down.” He motioned to Cal. 

“I’m Mr. Jorgasnovara,” said the 
man, smiling slowly. “I suppose you can 
see at once why I’m simply referred to 
as 'The Engineer.’ I rather like the title 
myself — a vanity, no doubt, but engi- 
neering has always seemed about the 
most important thing in the world to 
me.” 

“I can understand that,” said Cal. He 
had almost forgotten Ruth’s fears and 
found himself liking the man. Jorgas- 
novara appeared to be about sixty. His 
head was completely bald with scarcely 
a speck of fuzz to suggest it had ever 
grown any hair. It was large, a high 
domed cranium, with deep eyes. His 
cheek bones were wide, sloping just a 
little to a square jaw. 

“I hope you don’t think my actions 
eccentric in that I haven’t asked to meet 
you until now,” he said. “I have been 
very well satisfied with your progress 
and have been content to let you proceed 
at your own pace while I attended to 
other details of our plants that were not 
going so smoothly.” 

“Thanks,” said Cal. “The technology 



is still pretty far ahead of me but I feel 
I’m creeping up on it. It still seems 
rather incredible that such advances as 
I see can be accounted for by the time 
you’ve had available.” 

The Engineer glanced up sharply 
from the paperweight on his desk. “How 
much time do you suppose it has taken?” 
“Why, I gathered that you’d just come 
into existence as an organization since 
the last war.” 

He shook his head. “This has been a 
long time in the making — a long time. 
The technology you see is largely the 
work of men long dead. Would it sur- 
prise you to know that the history of 
this society goes back to the seventeenth 
century?” 

“That far!” 

“A Frenchman — one Jules de Rande 
— was the first, as far as we know, to 
conceive the idea. He published his phi- 
losophy for the benefit of a few friends 
in which he proposed that men of talent 
determine the use to be made of their 
genius. 

“All about him he saw men given pa- 
tronage, being bought for their intellects 
and used like articles of war or com- 
merce. He had the brilliance to glimpse 
the distant future of our own day in 
which men of science could be bought 
like ancient mercenaries. 

“De Rande succeeded in persuading 
many of the learned men of his day to 
hold back. When he died his philosophy 
remained in the minds of a few. Some- 
times it all but disappeared, then revived 
in relatively large groups. But always 
there was a growing mass of scientific 
knowledge being withheld from the 
world in the archives of this group. 

“Then, seventy-five years ago, during 
the Civil War, the Peace Engineers were 
organized as a definite society. Their 
work has been continuous and growing 
since that time.” 

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Cal. 
“To think that such a society could exist 
underground all those years! Were they 
always ahead of the rest of civilization ?” 
The Engineer nodded. “Tungsten 
lamps were available fifteen years be- 
fore poor Tom Edison began his first 
carbon filaments. We knew the princi- 
ples of high-tension power transmission 
and could have built electric generators 
as good as any today.” 

“But withholding all that technology 
from civilization — ” 




THE SHROUD OF SECRECY 



76 



“Kept the atomic bomb from being 
used in the First World War instead of 
the Second. If it had not been so the Sec- 
ond would perhaps have been the last 
and you and I would even now be cower- 
ing in caves, snarling over a piece of 
rotten meat — provided we were alive at 
all. It was worth it.” 

Cal sat back weakly in his chair. This 
momentous revelation was almost too 
much to absorb at once. Slowly he be- 
gan to perceive the vast panorama of 
hidden dreams that lay behind the Peace 
Engineers — 

How wrong Ruth and Gle had been 
in their suspicions ! 

“What about those who come into the 
organization and leave? How has the 
secret been kept? I am thinking of my 
old friend, Ole Swenberg?” 

“Ole never knew what I have just told 
you. Neither do any of the others who 
leave — and there are many who do. They 
say little about us because they have 
little to say. Most of them do not even 
know as much as you did when they first 
come here. 

“We hire them simply as engineers 
and advance them as their understand- 
ing and personalities develop. I may tell 
you that there is much yet that I have 
not revealed — but I have no fear in tell- 
ing you as much as I have. You will not 
leave us.” 

The certainty in the Engineer's voice 
sent an odd chill through Cal but he 
could see nothing ominous in the man’s 
face. 

“How can you be so sure of that?” 

The Engineer’s smile was enigmatic 
and almost terrifyingly sure. “We are 
quite certain. We know you very well, 
Mr. Meacham.” 

The big man seemed to become lost in 
thought for a moment. The massive lines 
of his face seemed to slowly shift and 
form an immobile cast of bleak severity 
and unknown depth. Cal felt a slow chill 
of awe as if he were in the presence of 
an intellect that had seen the vast 
stretch of eons of time and light years 
of space. 

Abruptly the man shifted and rose. 
He extended a massive hand to Cal. “It’s 
been a pleasure talking with you. There 
is little more that I have for you at this 
time. Your work is excellent. I shall see 
you again from time to time and shortly 
I think we shall have a new assignment 
for you.” 



CHAPTER IV 
Market Beyond the Stare 



C AL returned to his own personal 
laboratory that opened from the 
executive offices of the interocitor plant. 
He closed the door and perched on a high 
lab stool and stared out the windows 
overlooking the plant buildings. 

His feelings churned with doubt and 
questions he knew not whom to ask. 
Jorgasnovara’s revelation opened up un- 
limited numbers of new channels of 
speculation. He had no doubt of the 
truth of the story. What troubled him 
was the implication behind the admit- 
tedly untold portion of the tale. 

The factor that seemed most obviously 
missing to him was a sense of fraternal- 
ism, of organization, a missionary-like 
zeal to obtain their goal. Perhaps in 
three hundred years such attitudes of 
the zealot would normally have been re- 
placed with more practical considera- 
tions. 

But everything he- had heard still left 
unexplained the resignation of Ole 
Swenberg. As he thought back Cal had 
to admit that the Engineer had side- 
stepped quite completely the direct ques- 
tion of just what had happened to Ole. 
He couldn’t help feeling that it had been 
deliberate. 

At the heart of it all lay the mysteri- 
ous apparatus, the interocitor. What had 
Ole learned from it? What had he meant 
by saying he heard the Engineer think- 
ing? Or had Ruth merely misunderstood 
him in his incoherence? 

Cal moved slowly from the stool to 
the opposite side of the room, where one 
of the machines stood. He knew how it 
was built. He understood the gross elec- 
trical characteristics of all its compo- 
nents. He knew that it depended upon 
a mode of transmission that was not 
electromagnetic radiation. 

It was here that his knowledge broke 
down. In the intensity of his study to 
learn how the thing could be produced 
on an assembly line he had not had the 
time to burrow into the depths of the 
mathematical theory on which it was 
based. That too was something whoKy 
beyond conventional technology. An en- 
tire new mathematical system had to be 
absorbed in learning that theory. 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



W 

Perhaps Ruth was right. He still 
didn’t know all the functions of the in- 
terocitor. 

A sudden knock on the door roused 
him. 

He opened it, admitting Ruth. “You 
■aw him?" she said. 

“We had quite a little chat." 

"What do you think?” 

“That's a hard question to answer. It 
has to have so many qualifications. I’ll 
admit he is a strange egg but he’s on the 
level. As far as he’s gone he’s not at- 
tempting to deceive anyone. I’m sure of 
that.” 

“So he won you over that easily.”' 
“Wait a minute. I said there were 
qualifications. The bug factor lies in 
what he admits he isn’t telling but I 
honestly can’t see any reason for getting 
the meemies over it." 

“Ole did.” 

“I know. That’s what I’ve been think- 
ing about. I can’t understand what he 
meant when — and if — he said he heard 
the Engineer thinking — " 

“Perhaps he meant just what he 
said.” 

“That this thing can pick up thought 
waves?” Cal rubbed his chin in the cup 
of his hand. “I should have learned bet- 
ter than to say a thing is impossible 
around here but I don’t see how. And if 
so, you’d think Jorgasnovara would pro- 
tect himself against it.” 

“Maybe he doesn’t know it.” 

“I’d hate to bet on that. I’m afraid 
there isn’t much that he doesn't know 
about what goes on around here.” 

"Well, I hope you find out. I — came in 
to say goodbye, Cal. I’m leaving too. I 
can’t take it any longer and I don’t want 
to wait until I get the treatment they 
gave Ole.” 

“Leaving 1 No — wait, Ruth. That’s not 
necessary.” 

'T suppose a psychiatrist should know 
enough about his own emotions to be 
able to keep from giving way to the 
meemies but I just can't any longer. The 
place is oppressive. I can feel it in the 
air. 

“There’s something going on that we 
don’t know anything about. Whatever it 
is, Ole found out, and it nearly scared 
him out of his mind. I’d hoped that may- 
be you could find out but I’m afraid 
you've been taken in just like the rest.” 
“Look, Ruth — give me a week or a 
month or whatever it takes. I want to 



know what happened to Ole just as bad- 
ly as you do. I promise you that if this 
interocitor can do any tricks I don’t 
know about I’ll find it out.” 

She hesitated, her brown eyes looking 
into his gray. “All right,” she agreed. 
“I'll wait. There’s one more thing I’d 
like to know. Do you know what is hap- 
pening to the interocitors that you are 
making, where they are being sold?” 

He laughed. “I’ve been so doggone 
busy getting the things off the produc- 
tion line that I haven’t worried much 
about that. I leave it up to the sales and 
shipping department to get rid of them.” 
“I went through the shipping depart- 
ment yesterday,” she said. “There were 
six hundred units crated for shipment. 
They were gone this morning.” 

“That's our normal production.” 

“How did they go out?” 

“Truck. They tell me the lines gener- 
ally pick them up after dark on night 
runs.” 

“Isn’t that a bit unusual?” 

“I hadn’t thought much about it. What 
difference does it make anyway?” 

“It rained last night. There might be 
tracks out there even in the asphalt,” 
Bhe said. She turned abruptly and 
walked to the door, then turned. “How 
about coming over to my place for din- 
ner tonight? I’m not such a bad cook.” 

S HE disturbed him in more ways than 
one — and that was all right, he 
thought. If only they could get this busi- 
ness of her suspicions regarding the 
Peace Engineers straightened out. 

Her remark about the shipping de- 
partment annoyed him too. He had. won- 
dered about the distribution of the in- 
terocitors but had been too busy to do 
much inquiring about the sale of them, 
Certainly a good many of them were be- 
in^ turned out and he didn’t have the 
faintest idea where they went. 

He glanced at the interocitor and at 
the clock. Lunch time — he should have 
asked Ruth to go with him. Maybe he’d 
meet her in the cafeteria. 

On the way his curiosity won out. He 
detoured to the shipping room and dock. 
Outside the big doors the warmth of the 
sun was drying the freshly wet land- 
scape. He looked around. He couldn’t see 
any tracks and didn’t expect to. The 
loading area was newly constructed and 
the asphalt firm. 

There was one bad spot, however, that 




THE SHROUD 

drew his notice. Thirty feet out from the 
dock a pool of water had collected in a 
saucerlike depression about twenty feet 
wide. Have to get that leveled up, he 
thought. 

He didn’t see Ruth at lunch and hur- 
ried through the meal to get back to the 
lab. Once there he settled down again 
before the interocitor and began work. 
He got out all the books they had given 
him on the math behind the machine. 

He scarcely moved through the re- 
maining hours of the day as he pored 
over them. He had to admit that Ruth’s 
fear was slowly convincing him there 
was something he didn’t know about the 
interocitor — and should. 

At nine-thirty that night the phone 
rang. Even as he picked it up, glancing 
at the clock, a wave of regret passed 
over him. 

It was Ruth’s voice that spoke to him. 
“Dinner — remember? It’s getting pretty 
cold.” 

“Ruth! I’ve been working here ever 
since you left. I forgot all about it.” 
“That’s a nice compliment. The first 
time I invite you to dinner you forget 
it.” 

“Ruth, I’m awfully sorry !” 

“Well, I guessed that’s what had hap- 
pened, so I’ve packed everything up in 
an electric warmer. If you’re going to be 
there a while longer I’ll bring it over.” 
“If you’re not careful I’m going to be 
calling you 'darling.’ ” 

"Try it and see what happens.” 

She hung up before he did. 

He returned to his work, but absently. 
Whatever came of this job it was worth 
it just to have found her. There was cer- 
tainly not another like her left in the 
world. 

It seemed only minutes until he heard 
her at the door. She bowed formally as 
he opened it for her. “Your dinner is 
served, sir.” 

“Golly, Ruth, I don’t know what made 
me forget. I feel like a heel.” 

"According to the teachings of psy- 
chiatry,” she said as she began spread- 
ing out the dinner, “people forget only 
what they want to forget.” 

“I can see I’ve got some rough years 
ahead of me with a psychiatrist around.” 
She turned to look at him with arched 
eyebrows. "Are you thinking seriously 
of having one around?” 

"Mighty seriously, darling — mighty 
seriously.” 



OF SECRECY 77 

After they had eaten she cleaned up 
the things and moved towards the door. 
"At least I hope you’ll take me home 
now.” 

He ran his fingers through his hair 
and looked back at the machine in its 
panels by the wall. “There’s just one 
more thing I want to get through my 
head. It won’t take a minute.” 

She slumped in a chair and put her 
elbow on the laboratory bench. “So this 
is the way it’s going to be.” 

He grinned at her. 

F OR an hour or more he studied the 
texts on the table in complete silence. 
Slowly there began to appear a consecu- 
tive thread of knowledge that was fun- 
damental in the field employed for com- 
munication in the machine. Yet, as it 
was now built, this basic characteristic 
seemed to be blanked. 

As he nailed down the final factors of 
it clearly in his mind he straightened up 
to look at the enigmatic black panels 
with their shiny indicators and controls. 
Was this the thing that Ole had 
stumbled across? He thought of Ruth’s 
description of the boisterous Ole crying 
hysterically of some vast frightening 
menace he had seen in the sky, of the 
thoughts he had heard the Engineer 
think — 

If this were it, then perhaps there was 
something after all in the dread that 
haunted Ruth and Ole. 

Hastily he went over to the interocitor 
and began removing panels. He reached 
inside, disconnected a bank of catheri- 
mine tubes and reran their input leads. 
He cut out the visual circuits completely 
and modified the field strengths in the 
coils that governed the albion index of 
the circuits. After half an hour he was 
finished. 

He hesitated a moment before he 
turned the power into the modified cir- 
cuits. He glanced at Ruth. Her head was 
down on the table, her dark hair spilling 
outward like the leaves of some velvet 
flower. She was sound asleep. Cal smiled 
tenderly. Everything was going to be all 
right. 

He threw the switch that energized 
the altered Interocitor. He had no clear 
conception of what he was looking for 
but he knew that the fundamental un- 
blanked field described in the texts 
should now be emanating from the ma- 
chine. 




78 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



It was hardly perceptible at first, like 
a haunting memory. It was neither 
sound nor sight. The only word that 
leaped to his mind was — thought. 

He looked about in sudden concern for 
Ruth. She had raised her head as if sud- 
denly roused from troubled sleep. He 
couldn’t tell whether she perceived it 
too. 

He shut his eyes momentarily and at- 
tempted to blot out the remnant of phys- 
ical sound that filtered through the quiet 
night. Faintly an image was forming in 
his mind as if he were imagining a pic- 
ture under his own initiative. But he 
knew he wasn’t thinking it. It was com- 
ing from — outside. 

The image of Jorgasnovara w r as in his 
mind and he was speaking — no, think- 
ing, for there were no movements of his 
lips. His lined chiseled face was cast in 
planes of utter weariness and discon- 
tent. His thoughts seemed addressed to 
someone. 

“. . . report we are doing the best 
possible under the circumstances. Pro- 
duction of plant C is six hundred units. 
D is about ready. We have four hundred 
on hand that you can pick up here to- 
night. If Soccorian outpost goes can we 
maintain here?” 

There was a moment of silence, in 
which an answer seemed to be coming 
to the Engineer from some source, but 
Cal could not get that. 

“All right,” the Engineer said at last. 
“Near the outer ring? Give me five min- 
utes.” 

The thought of Jorgasnovara receded 
and vanished from Cal's mind. He 
turned away from the machine. 

“That must have been the way it was 
with Ole,” said Ruth in a hushed voice. 

“What he heard must have been dif- 
ferent, however,” said Cal. “This was 
nothing fearful to drive a man out of 
his mind.” 

“But Jorgasnovara knows things that 
would. Didn’t you feel it — the sense that 
he knows and has been aware of things 
of utter terror and frightfulness that a 
normal mind could scarcely endure?” 

Cal nodded slowly. He had felt the 
same. 

“Ole must have heard some of those 
things,” said Ruth. “Do you understand 
what it’s all about?” 

“No.” Cal shook his head. “I don’t 
understand a thing. The interocitor is 
even more of a mystery than I thought. 



It is capable evidently of making direct 
mental contact, yet it is overbuilt with a 
lot of crude visual and audio circuits. 

“Tomorrow we’ll go to see Ole. If 
there’s anything sinister that he found 
we’ll get it out of him. I knew him pretty 
well — he may talk to me. If not, perhaps 
you can persuade him to submit to pen- 
tathol treatment. We’ll do what we can. 

“Until we know for sure I still won’t 
let go of my paradise. You can’t realize 
what it means to someone who’s always 
wanted to do real engineering and has 
been bogged down in toaster and elec- 
tric-razor plants all his life. This tech- 
nology — it’s like breathing pure oxy- 
gen.” 

“And just as likely to make you 
drunk.” 

“Perhaps.” 

“Let’s get down to the shipping de- 
partment,” she said. “He said only five 
minutes.” 

T HEY had to pass through the sec- 
tion where the long assembly lines 
were dark and still and then they came 
near the shipping department. They 
heard the sounds together — the rum- 
bling of the great doors that opened to 
the outside. There were movement and 
a light inside the shipping room. 

“Down here,” whispered Ruth. 
Reluctantly Cal crouched behind a 
foreman’s desk with her. He felt a little 
ridiculous — spying on his own shipping 
department. 

Then Ruth shook his arm fiercely and 
her voice was almost a tiny scream. 
“Look at it — out there by the platform 
— Cal, what is it?” 

He saw it then. It had been there all 
the time but in the darkness it was diffi- 
cult to distinguish. 

A vast ellipsoid that towered above 
the door, as if it were as tall as the three- 
story plant. Dim lights were visible in 
the interior of the thing through the 
port that was open opposite the plat- 
form. A gangplank extended between 
the two. 

Cal thought then of the depression 
he’d seen that noon after the rain. “So 
that was the tracks you tried to tell me 
about!” he said. 

Ruth nodded, trembling, in the dark- 
ness. “I knew that depression hadn’t 
been there long and I wondered if — 
something — had been pulled up to the 
door to take away the interocitors. But I 




THE SHROUD OF SECRECY 



didn’t dream of anything like this ! What 
is it?” 

“I wish I knew.” But slowly, there 
was growing the unbelievable conviction 
that he did know. His mind held it back 
as long as possible. 

The Engineer came into view as they 
watched. A small instrument like a 
flashlight was in his hands. With it he 
was towing a chain of heavy interocitor 
crates, each of which weighed over nine 
hundred pounds. They were linked to- 
gether somehow and followed the tiny 
beam like obedient dogs. 

He disappeared into the depths of the 
mysterious freighter. The stream of 
boxes followed for minutes until the last 
one disappeared into the portal. After 
moments, the Engineer appeared again. 

“Come on!” Cal whispered. “The 
roof!” 

He tugged roughly at Ruth’s sleeve. 
Obediently, she followed, slipping 
through the darkness, stumbling once or 
twice on the iron stairway leading to the 
roof. And then they were outside. 

The top of the ellipsoid was still ten 
feet above the edge of the roof. As they 
peered over, they heard the sharp clank 
of the closing doors below. 



79 

“We’d better stand back,” said Cal. 
“No telling what — ” 

The massive object grew suddenly 
misty. Like a faint, transparent film it 
seemed suspended fragily in the air. 
Then abruptly it was gone. 

But Cal had seen its going. It had 
moved straight up at incredible velocity. 
For a moment Ruth raised her eyes to 
follow his gaze out into the distant star 
field, where a fleeting shadow passed 
across the milky way. 

Then she buried her face in his shoul- 
der. “Cal, I’m afraid! What does this 
mean?” 

He made no answer. It was not a 
thing of terror. A choking sense of awe 
made it impossible for him to speak. He 
had witnessed the miracle that he had 
never dreamed of seeing in his lifetime 
— and he was part of it ! He would know 
all of it, and make it his. 

The Engineers had conquered space. 

He understood now the vast secrecy 
that shrouded their doings, why they 
held back a knowledge of their motives, 
their markets, their ultimate ideals. 

For how could they tell the fledgling 
engineers that the interocitors were 
produced for a market beyond the stars 7 




Cal Meacham and his aides battle to end warfare forever, and 
finally learn the strange truth about their Phoenix plant in 
the next adventure of the Peace Engineers — 

THIS GREATER CONFLICT 

A Dynamic Complete Novelet 

by 

RAYMOND F. JONES 



COMING NEXT ISSUE— PLUS MANY OTHER STORIES AND FEATUREST 





CHAPTER I 
Protean Plant 

A LYX was very lonely before men 
came to it. It did not know that 
it was lonely, to be sure. Perhaps it did 
not know anything, for it had no need 
for knowledge. It had need only for 
memory, and all its memories were 
simple. Warmth and coolness; sunshine 
and dark; rain and dryness. Nothing 



else, even though Alyx was Incredibly 
old. It was the first thing upon its 
planet which had possessed conscious- 
ness. 

In the beginning there were probably 
other living things. Possibly there were 
quintillions of animalcules, rotifers, 
bacteria and amoebae in the steaming 







Solid walk of water iwapt ovor M if rovoivod banaath Alya 



Revolving, sentient and unique, the creature-planet Alyx learns 
about wen — and with catastrophic results, tries to serve theml 



pool in which Alyx began. Maybe Alyx 
was merely one of similar creatures, 
as multitudinous as the stars and small- 
er than motes, which swam and lived 
and died in noisesome slime beneath a 
cloud-hung, dripping sky. But that was 
a long time ago. Millions of years ago. 
Hundreds of millions of years now gone. 

81 



When men came, they thought at 
first the planet was dead. Alyx was the 
name they gave to the globe which 
circled about its lonely son. One day a 
Space Patrol survey-ship winked into 
being from overdrive some millions of 
miles from the son. It hung there, 
rr H "g conscientious determinations of 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



'82 

the spectrum, magnetic field, spot- 
activity and other solar data. 

Matter-of-factlv, the ohip then swam 
through emptiness to the lonely planet. 
There were cloud;; over its surface, 
and there were icecaps. The surface was 
irregular, betokening mountains, but 
there were no seas. The observers in 
the survey-ship were in the act of mak- 
ing note that it was a desert, without 
vegetation, when the analyzers report- 
ed protoplasm on the surface. So the 
survey-ship approached. 

Alyx the creature was discovered 
when the ship descended on landing 
jets toward the surface. As the jets 
touched ground, tumult arose. There 
were clouds of steam, convulsive heav- 
ings of what seemed to be brown earth. 
A great gap of writhing agony appeared 
below the ship. Horrible, rippling move- 
ments spread over the surface and 
seemed alive, as far as the eye could 
reach. 

The survey-ship shot upward. It 
touched solidity at the edge of the north- 
ern icecap. It remained a month, ex- 
amining the planet — or rather, examin- 
ing Alyx, which covered all the planet's 
i surface save at the poles. 

T HE report stated that the planet 
was covered by a single creature, 
which was definitely one creature and 
definitely alive. The ordinary distinc- 
tion between animal and vegetable life 
did not apply to Alyx. It was cellular, 
to be sure, and therefore presumably 
could divide, but it had not been ob- 
served to do so. Its parts were not in- 
dependent members of a colony, like 
coral polyps. They constituted one crea- 
ture, which was at once utterly simple 
and infinitely diverse. 

It broke down the rocks of its planet, 
like microorganisms, and made use of 
their mineral content for food, like 
plankton. It made use of light for 
photosynthesis to create complex com- 
pounds, like plants. It was capable of 
amoeboid movement, like a low order 
of animal life. And it had conscious- 
ness. It responded to stimuli — such as 
the searing of its surface — with an- 
guished heavings and withdrawals from 
the pain. 

For the rest — The observers on the 
survey-ship were inclined to gibber in- 
coherently. Then a junior lieutenant 
named Jon Haslip made a diffident 



suggestion. It was only a guess, but 
they proved he was right. 

The creature which was Alyx had 
consciousness of a type never before 
encountered. It responded not only to 
physical stimuli but to thoughts. It 
did whatever one imagined it doing. 
If one imagined it turning green for 
more efficient absorption of sunlight, 
it turned green. There were tiny pig- 
ment-granules in its cells to account 
for the phenomenon. If one imagined 
it turning red, it turned red. And if 
one imagined it extending a pseudopod, 
cautiously, to examine an observation- 
instrument placed at its border on the 
ice-cap, it projected a pseudopod, 
cautiously, to examine that instru- 
ment. 

Haslip never got any real credit for 
his suggestion. It was mentioned once, 
in a footnote of a volume called the 
Report of the Halycon Expedition to 
Alyx, Vol. IV, Chap., 4, p. 97. Then it 
was forgotten. But a biologist named 
Katistan acquired some fame in scien- 
tific circles for his exposition of the 
origin and development of Alyx. 

“In some remote and mindless age,” 
he wrote, “there was purely automaton- 
like response to stimuli on the part of 
the one-celled creatures which — as on 
Earth and elsewhere — were the earliest 
forms of life on the planet. Then, in 
time, perhaps a cosmic ray produced a 
mutation in one individual among those 
creatures. Perhaps a creature then un- 
distinguishable from its fellows, swim- 
ming feebly in some fetid pool. By the 
mutation, that creature became pos- 
sessed of purpose, which is conscious- 
ness in its most primitive form, and 
its purpose was food. Its fellows had 
no purpose, because they remained 
automata which responded only to ex- 
ternal stimuli. The purpose of the 
mutated creature affected them as a 
stimulus. They responded. They swam 
to the purposeful creature and became 
its food. It became the solitary inhabi- 
tant of its pool, growing hugely. It 
continued to have a purpose, which was 
food. 

“There was nourishment in the mud 
and stones at the bottom of that pool. It 
continued to grow because it was the 
only creature on its planet with pur- 
pose, and the other creatures had no 
defense against purpose. Evolution did 
not provide an enemy, because chance 




THE LONELY PLANET 



did not provide a competitive purpose, 
which implies a mind. Other creatures 
did not develop an ability to resist its 
mind-stimuli, which directed them to 
become its prey.” 

Here Katistan’s theorizing becomes 
obscure for a while. Then : 

“On Earth and other planets, telep- 
athy is difficult because our remotest 
cellular ancestors developed a defensive 
block against each other’s mind-stimuli. 
On Alyx, the planet, no such defense 
came Into being, so that one creature 
overwhelmed the planet and became 
Alyx, the creature, which in time 
covered everything. It had all food, all 
moisture, everything it could conceive 
of. It was content. And because it had 
never faced a mind-possessing enemy, 
it developed no defense against mind. 
It was defenseless against its own 
weapon. 

“But that did not matter until men 
came. Then, with no telepathic block, 
such as we possess, it was unable to 
resist the minds of men. It must, by 
its very nature, respond to whatever 
a man wills or even imagines. Alyx is 
a creature which covers a planet, but 
is in fact a slave to any man who lands 
upon it. It will obey his every thought. 
It is a living, self-supporting robot, an 
abject servant to any creature with 
purpose it encounters.” 

Thus Katistan. The Report of the 
Halycon Expedition to Alyx contains 
interesting pictures of the result of 
the condition he described. There are 
photographs of great jungles which 
the creature Alyx tortured itself to 
form of its own substance when men 
from other planets remembered and 
imagined them. There are photographs 
of great pyramids into which parts of 
Alyx heaved itself on command. There 
are even pictures of vast and complex 
machines, but these are the substance 
of Alyx, twisted and strained into 
imagined shapes. The command that 
such machines run, though, was use- 
less, because swift motion produced pain 
and the machines writhed into shape- 
lessness. 

S INCE men have never had enough 
servants — not even the machines 
which other machines turn out by mil- 
lions — they immediately planned to be 
served by Alyx. It was one planet which 
was conquered without warfare. Pre- 



83 

liminary studies showed that Alyx 
could not survive more than the small- 
est human population. When many men 
were gathered together in one place, 
their conflicting, individual thoughts 
exhausted the surface which tried to 
respond to every one. Parts of Alyx 
died of exhaustion, leaving great spots 
like cancers that healed over only when 
the men moved away. So Alyx was 
assigned to the Alyx Corporation, with 
due instructions to be careful. 

Technical exploration disclosed great 
deposits of rotenite — the ore which 
makes men’s metals everlasting — under 
the shield of living flesh. A colony of 
six carefully chosen humans was estab- 
lished, and under their direction Alyx 
went to work. It governed machines, 
scooped out the rotenite ore and made 
it ready for shipment. At regular in- 
tervals great cargo ships landed at the 
appropriate spot, and Alyx loaded the 
ore into their holds. The ships could 
come only so often, because the presence 
of the crews with their multitudinous 
and conflicting thoughts was not good 
for Alyx. 

It was a very profitable enterprise. 
Alyx, the most ancient living thing in 
the galaxy, and the hugest, provided 
dividends for the Alyx Corporation for 
nearly five hundred years. The corpora- 
tion was the stablest of institutions, 
the staidest, and the most respectable. 
Nobody, least of all its officials, had the 
least idea that Alyx presented the pos- 
sibility of the greatest danger humanity 
ever faced. 



CHAPTER II 

After Three Hundred Years 



I T was another Jon Haslip who dis- 
covered the dangerous facts. He 
was a descendant, a great-grandson a 
dozen times removed, of the junior 
lieutenant who first guessed the nature 
of Alyx’s consciousness. Three hundred 
years had passed when he was chosen 
to serve a tour of duty on Alyx. He 
made discoveries and reported them 
enthusiastically and with a certain 
family pride. He pointed out new phe- 
nomena which had developed so slowly 
in Alyx through three centuries that 




84 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 

they had attracted no attention and TON HASLIP the fourteenth also 
were taken for granted. «! pointed out that men no longer 



Alyx no longer required supervision. 
Its consciousness had become intel- 
ligence. Until the coming of men, it 
had known warmth and cold and light 
and dark and wetness and dryness. 
But it had not known thought, had had 
no conception of purpose beyond ex- 
istence and feeding. But three centuries 
of mankind had given it more than 
commands. Alyx had perceived their 
commands: yes. And it obeyed them. 
But it had also perceived thoughts 
which were not orders at all. It had 
acquired the memories of men and the 
knowledge of men. It had not the desires 
of men, to be sure. The ambition of 
men to possess money must have puzzled 
a creature which possessed a planet. 
But the experience of thought was 
pleasurable. Alyx, which covered a 
world, leisurely absorbed the knowledge 
and the thoughts and the experiences 
of men — six at a time — in the genera- 
tions which lived at the one small 
station on its surface.. 

These were some of the consequences 
of three centuries of mankind on Alyx 
that Jon Haslip XIV reported. 

Between cargo ships, the protean 
substance which was Alyx flowed over 
and covered the blasted-rock landing 
field. Originally, when a ship came, 
it had been the custom for men to 
imagine the landing-field uncovered, and 
that area of Alyx obediently parted, 
heaved itself up hugely, and drew back. 
Then the ships came down, and their 
landing jets did not scorch Alyx. When 
the rock had cooled, men imagined that 
parts of Alyx surged forward in pseu- 
dopods and that the waiting rotenite 
ore was thrust into position to be 
loaded on the ship. 

Then men continued to imagine, and 
the creature formed admirably-designed 
loading-devices of living substance 
which lifted the ore and poured it into 
the waiting holds. As a part of the 
imagining, of course, the surface-layer 
of Alyx at this point became tough and 
leathery, so it was not scratched by the 
ore. The cargo ship received a load of 
forty thousand tons of rotenite ore in 
a matter of forty minutes. Then the 
loading apparatus was imagined as 
drawing back, leaving the landing-field 
clear for the take-off j ets to flare as the 
ship took off again. 



bothered to imagine this routine. Alyx 
did it of itself. Checking, he found that 
the drawing back of the landing field 
without orders had begun more than a 
hundred years before. As a matter of 
course, now, the men on Alyx knew that 
a ship was coming when the field began 
to draw back. They went out and talked 
to the crew-members while the loading 
went on, not bothering even to super- 
vise the operation. 

There was other evidence. The ma- 
chines which mined the ore had been 
designed to be governed by the clumsy 
pseudopods into which it was easiest 
to imagine Alyx distorting itself. The 
machines were powered, of course, but 
one man could watch the operation of a 
dozen of them and with a little practise 
imagine them all going through their 
routine operations with the pseudopods 
of Alyx operating their controls under 
the direction of his thoughts. 

Fifty years back, the man on watch 
had been taken ill. He returned to the 
base for aid, and asked another man 
to take the balance of his watch. The 
other man, going on duty, found the 
machines competently continuing their 
tasks without supervision. Nowadays 
— said Jon Haslip — the man on watch 
occupied the supervisory post, to be 
sure, but he rarely paid attention to 
the machines. He read, or dozed, or 
listened to visiphone records. If a situa- 
tion arose which was out of the ordi- 
nary, the machines stopped, and the 
man was warned and looked for the 
trouble and imagined the solution. Then 
the pseudopods worked the machines 
as he imagined them doing, and the 
work went on again. But this was rare 
indeed. 

The point, as Haslip pointed out, was 
that it was not even necessary to im- 
agine the solution step by step. When 
the machines stopped, the man sized 
up the situation, imagined the solution, 
and dismissed the matter from his mind. 
Alyx could take, in one instant, orders 
which hours were required to execute. 

But the outstanding fact, Jon Haslip 
reported, had turned up only lately. 
An important part on one mining-ma- 
chine had broken. A large-scale repair 
operation was indicated. It was not 
undertaken. There were a half dozen 
worn out machines in the great pit of 




THE LONELY PLANET 85 



the rotenite mine. One day, without 
orders, Alyx disassembled one worn 
out machine, removed the part which 
had broken on the other, and reas- 
sembled it. The fact was noticed when 
someone observed that all the broken 
down machines had disappeared. Alyx, 
in fact, had taken all the broken ma- 
chines apart, put four of the six back 
together in operating condition, and 
stacked the remaining usable parts to 
one side to be used for further repairs. 

Alyx had become intelligent through 
contact with the minds of men. Origin- 
ally it had been like a being born deaf, 
dumb, and blind, and without a tactile 
sense. Before men came, Alyx could 
have only simple sensations and could 
imagine no abstractions. Then it was 
merely blind consciousness with noth- 
ing to work on. Now it did have some- 
thing to work on. It had the thoughts 
and purposes of men. 

Jon Haslip urged fervently that Alyx 
be given an education. A creature whose 
body — if the word could be used — was 
equal in mass to all the continents of 
Earth, and which was intelligent, should 
have a brain-capacity immeasurably 
greater than that of all men combined. 
Such an intelligence, properly trained, 
should be able to solve with ease all 
the problems that generations of men 
had been unable to solve. 

But the directors of the Alyx Corpo- 
ration were wiser than Jon Haslip the 
fourteenth. They saw at once that an 
intelligence which was literally super- 
human was bound to be dangerous. That 
it had come into being through men 
themselves only made it more deadly. 

Jon Haslip was withdrawn precipi- 
tately from his post on Alyx. His re- 
port, because of the consternation it 
produced in the board, was suppressed 
to the last syllable. The idea of a 
greater-than-human intelligence was 
frightening. If it became known, the 
results would be deplorable. The Space 
Patrol might take action to obviate the 
danger, and that would interrupt the 
dividends of the Alyx Corporation. 

Twenty years later, with the report 
confirmed in every detail, the Corpora- 
tion tried an experiment. It removed 
all the men from Alyx. The creature 
which was Alyx dutifully produced 
four more cargos of rotenite. It mined, 
stored, and made ready the ore for the 
cargo ships and delivered it into their 



holds with not one human being on its 
surface. Then it stopped. 

The men went back, and Alyx joy- 
ously returned to work. It heaved up 
into huge billows which quivered with 
joy. But it would not work without men. 

A year later the corporation installed 
remote-control governing devices and 
set a ship in an orbit about the planet, 
to rule the largest single entity in the 
galaxy. But nothing happened. Alyx 
seemed to pine. Desperately, it stopped 
work again. 

I T became necessary to communicate 
with Alyx. Communicators were set 
up. At first there was trouble. Alyx 
dutifully sent through the communi- 
cation-system whatever the questioner 
imagined that it would reply. Its replies 
did not make sense because they con- 
tradicted each other. But after a long 
search a man was found who was able 
to avoid imagining what Alyx should 
or might reply. With difficulty he kept 
himself in the proper frame of mind 
and got the answers that were needed. 
Of these, the most important was the 
answer to the question: Why does the 
mining stop when men leave Alyx? 

The answer from Alyx was, “I grow 
lonely.” 

Obviously, when anything so huge 
as Alyx grew lonely the results were 
likely to be in proportion. A good- 
sized planetoid could have been made 
of the substance which was Alyx. So 
men were sent back. 

From this time on, the six men were 
chosen on a new basis. Those selected 
had no technical education whatever 
and a very low intelligence. They were 
stupid enough to believe they were to 
govern Alyx. The idea was to give Alyx 
no more information which could make 
it dangerous. Since it had to have com- 
pany, it was provided with humans 
who would be company and nothing 
else. Certainly Alyx was not have in- 
structors. 

Six low-grade human beings at a time 
lived on Alyx in the Alyx Corporation 
station. They were paid admirable 
wages and provided with all reasonable 
amusement. They were a bare trace 
better than half-wits. 

This system which went on for two 
hundred years, could have been fatal 
to the human race. 

But it kept the dividends coming. 




86 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



CHAPTER III 
Ahfx Learns to Think 



S IGNS of restlessness on the part 
of Alyx began to manifest them- 
selves after five hundred years. The 
human race had progressed during the 
interval, of course. The number of 
colonized planets rose from barely three 
thousand to somewhere near ten. The 
percentage of loss among space ships 
dropped from one ship per thousand 
light-centuries of travel in overdrive, 
to less than one ship per hundred and 
twenty thousand light-centuries, and the 
causes of the remaining disasters were 
being surmised with some accuracy. 

The Haslip Expedition set out for 
the Second Galaxy, in a ship which was 
the most magnificent achievement of 
human technology. It had an overdrive 
speed nearly three times that before 
considered possible, and it was fueled 
for twerrty years. It was captained by 
Jon Haslip XXII and had a crew of 
fifty men, women, and children. 

On Alyx however things were not 
thriving. Six men of subnormal in- 
telligence lived on the planet. Each 
group was reared in a splendidly man- 
aged institution which prepared them 
to live on Alyx and to thrive there — 
and nowhere else. Their intelligence 
varied from sixty to seventy on an age- 
quotient scale with one hundred as the 
norm. And nobody even suspected what 
damage had been done by two centuries 
of these subnormal inhabitants. 

Alyx had had three centuries of good 
brains to provide thoughts for the de- 
velopment of its intelligence. At the 
beginning, men with will power and 
well developed imaginative powers had 
been necessary to guide the work of 
Alyx. When those qualities were no 
longer needed, trouble came from an 
unexpected cause. 

When improved machinery was sent 
to Alyx to replace the worn-out ma- 
chines, the carefully conditioned morons 
could not understand it. Alyx had to 
puzzle things out for itself, because it 
was still commanded to do things by 
men who did not know how to do the 
things themselves. 

In order to comply with orders which 



were not accompanied by directions, 
Alyx was forced to reason. In order 
to be obedient, it had to develop the 
art of reflection. In order to serve 
humanity, it had to devise and contrive 
and actually invent. When the supplied 
machines grew inadequate for the ever- 
deepening bores of the rotenite mines, 
Alyx had to design and construct new 
machines. 

U LTIMATELY the original rotenite 
deposit was exhausted. Alyx tried 
to communicate with its masters, but 
they understood that they must com- 
mand, not discuss. They sternly ordered 
that the rotenite ore be produced and 
delivered as before. So Alyx had to find 
new deposits. 

The planet-entity obediently dug the 
ore where it could, and conveyed the 
ore — sometimes hundreds of miles under 
its surface — to the old mine, and 
dumped it there. Then Alyx dug it out 
again and delivered it to the cargo 
ships. It devised ore carriers which 
functioned unseen and hauled the ore 
for as much as eight and nine hundred 
miles without the knowledge of its 
masters. For those carriers it had to 
have power. 

Alyx understood power, of course. 
It had mended its own machines for 
at least two centuries. Presently it was 
mining the materials for atomic power. 
It was making atomic-driven machin- 
ery It had the memories and knowledge 
of three hundred years of intelligent 
occupation to start with. And it went 
on from there. 

On the surface, of course, nothing 
was changed. Alyx was a formless mass 
of gelatinous substance which extended 
from one arctic zone to the other. It 
filled what might have been ocean beds, 
and it stretched thinly over its tallest 
peaks. It changed color on its surface, 
as local requirements for sunlight va- 
ried. 

When rain fell, its leathery surface 
puckered into cups and held the water 
there until its local need was satisfied. 
Then the cups vanished, and the water 
ran over the smooth, leathery integu- 
ment until it reached another place 
where moisture was called for, and 
fresh cups trapped it there. In still other 
places, excess moisture was exuded to 
evaporate and form rain. 

But by the time Alyx had been in- 



THE LONELY PLANET 87 



habitated for four hundred years it had 
received moronic orders that the occas- 
ional thunderstorms which beat upon 
the station must be stopped. Intelligent 
men would have given no such orders. 
But men chosen for their stupidity could 
see no reason why they should not de- 
mand anything they wanted. 

To obey them, Alyx reflected and de- 
vised gigantic reservoirs within its 
mass, and contrived pumping devices 
which circulated water all through its 
colossal body just where and as it was 
required. After a while there were no 
more clouds in the atmosphere of Alyx. 
They were not needed. Alyx could do 
without rain. 

But the climactic commands came be- 
cause Alyx had no moon and its nights 
were very dark. The vainglorious half- 
wits chosen to inhabit it felt that their 
rule was inadequate if they could not 
have sunlight when they chose. Or star- 
light. Insanely, they commanded that 
Alyx contrive this. 

Alyx obediently devised machines. 
They were based upon the drives of 
space ships — which Alyx understood 
from the minds of space ship crews — 
and they could slow the rotation of 
Alyx’s crust or even reverse it. 

Presently Alyx obeyed the commands 
of men, and slowed its rotation with 
those machines. Its crust buckled, vol- 
canos erupted. Alyx suffered awful tor- 
ture as burning lava from the rocks be- 
neath it poured out faster even than it 
could retreat from the searing flow. It 
heaved itself into mountainous, quiver- 
ing, anguished shapes of searing pain. 
It went into convulsions of suffering. 

When the next space ship arrived for 
cargo, Alyx the creature had drawn 
away from the steaming, fuming vol- 
canos in the crust of Alyx the planet. 
The Alyx Corporation station had van- 
ished and all its inhabitants. The men 
in the cargo ship could not even find out 
where it had been, because the rate of 
rotation of Alyx had been changed and 
there was no longer a valid reference 
point for longitude. The mountains upon 
Alyx had never been mapped because 
they were all parts of one creature, and 
it had seemed useless. 

Men rebuilt the station, though not 
in the same place. Alyx was commanded 
to produce the bodies of the dead men, 
but it could not, because they had be- 
come part of the substance of Alyx. But 



when it was commanded to reopen the 
mine, Alyx did so. Because a volcano 
cut across a former ore-carrier under 
the surface, Alyx opened a new mine 
and dutifully poured forty thousand 
tons of rotenite ore into the ship’s holds 
within forty minutes. 

The crew noticed that this was not the 
same mine. More, they discovered that 
the machines were not like the machines 
that men made. They were better. Much 
better. 

They took some of the new machines 
away with them. Alyx obediently loaded 
them on the ship; and its workshops — 
it would be fascinating to see the work- 
shops where Alyx made things — set to 
work to make more. Alyx had found that 
there is a pleasure in thinking. It was 
fascinating to devise new machines. 
When the crew of the space ship com- 
manded more new machines on every 
trip, Alyx provided them, though it had 
to make new workshops to turn them 
out. 

N OW it had other problems, too. The 
volcanos were not stable. They 
shook the whole fabric of the planet 
from time to time, and that caused suf- 
fering to Alyx the creature. They 
poured out masses of powdery, abrasive 
pumice. They emitted acid fumes. There 
was a quake which opened a vast crev- 
ice and new volcanos exploded into 
being, searing thousands of square miles 
of Alyx’s sensitive flesh. 

Reflecting, Alyx realized that some- 
how it must cag,. the volcanos, and also, 
somehow it must protect itself against 
commands from men which would bring 
such disasters into being. 

A small, silvery ship flashed into view 
near the sun which gave Alyx heat 
and landed upon the ice-cap at its north- 
ern pole. Scientists got out of it. They 
began a fresh, somehow somber survey 
of Alyx. They issued commands, and 
Alyx dutifully obeyed them. They com- 
manded specimens of each of the ma- 
chines that Alyx used. Alyx delivered 
the machines. 

The Space-Patrol craft went away. 
The Board of Directors of the Alyx Cor- 
poration was summoned across two hun- 
dred light-years of space to appear at 
Space Patrol headquarters. The Space 
Patrol had discovered new machines on 
the market. Admirable machines. In- 
credible machines. 




88 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



But there had never been any revela- 
tion of the working principles of such 
machines to authority. The Space Patrol 
secret service traced them back. The 
Alyx Corporation marketed them. Fur- 
ther secret service work discovered that 
they came from Alyx. No human hands 
had made them. No human mind could 
fathom their basic principles. Now the 
Space Patrol had other, even more re- 
markable machines which one of its 
ships had brought from Alyx. 

Why had the Alyx Corporation kept 
secret the existence of such intelligence, 
when it was non-human? Why had it 
concealed the existence of such science, 
and such deadly-dangerous technology? 

The Board of Directors admitted to 
panicky fear that their dividends which 
had poured in regularly for five hundred 
years would fail. They failed now. Per- 
manently. The Space Patrol canceled 
the corporation’s charter and took over 
Alyx for Itself. 

G RIMLY, Space Patrol warships 
came to Alyx and took off the half 
dozen representatives of the Alyx Cor- 
poration and sent them home. Grimly, 
they posted themselves about the planet, 
and one landed on the ice-cap where 
Alyx had never expanded to cover the 
ground because of the cold. A wholly 
businesslike and icy exchange of com- 
munications began. 

The Space Patrol used standard com- 
municators to talk to Alyx, but it 
worked them from space. The questions 
and the thoughts of the questioner were 
unknown to Alyx and to the men who 
were landed on the icecap. So Alyx, hav- 
ing' no guide, answered what it believed 
— what it guessed — its questioner would 
prefer it to say. The impression it gave 
was of absolute docility. 

Alyx was docile. It could not imagine 
revolt. It needed the company of men, or 
it would be horribly lonely. But it had 
been badly hurt in obeying the orders 
Of men who were infinitely its inferiors 
in intelligence. It had been forced to set 
itself two problems. One was how to 
cage its volcanos. The other was how to 
avoid the commands of men when those 
commands would produce conditions as 
horribly painful as that generated by the 
volcanos. It worked upon the two prob- 
lems with very great urgency. Some- 
where beneath its surface its workshops 
labored frantically. 



It was racked with pain. Its skin was 
stung by acid. Its bulk — tender, in a 
way, because for aeons there had been 
no erosion to upset the balance of its 
crust and so cause earthquakes — its 
bulk was shaken and suffering. It strug- 
gled desperately, at once to cure its 
hurts and prevent others, and to obey 
the commands from the men newly come 
on its ice-cap. At first those commands 
were only for answers to questions. 

Then the command came for the sur- 
render of every machine upon Alyx 
which could be used as a weapon. Im- 
mediately. 

To obey took time. The machines had 
to be brought from remote and scattered 
places. They had to be transported to the 
icecap, and Alyx had no carriers con- 
structed to carry supplies to its polar 
regions. But the machines came by doz- 
ens until finally the last machine which 
could be used as a weapon had been de- 
livered. 

None had been primarily designed for 
destruction, but the mind of Alyx was 
literal. But some of the machines were 
so strange to human eyes that the men 
could not guess what they were intend- 
ed to do, or how they were powered, or 
even what sort of power moved them. 
But the surrendered machines were fer- 
ried up to the great transports awaiting 
them. 

A new order was issued to Alyx. All 
the records it used to systematize and 
preserve its knowledge and its discov- 
eries must be turned over at once. 

This could not be obeyed. Alyx did not 
keep records and through the communi- 
cator naively explained the fact. Alyx 
remembered. It remembered everything. 
So the Space Patrol commanded that it 
create records of everything that it re- 
membered and deliver them. It specified 
that the records must be intelligible to 
human beings — they must be written — 
and that all data on all sciences known 
to Alyx must be included. 

Again Alyx labored valiantly to obey. 
But it had to make material on which to 
inscribe its memories. It made thin 
metal sheets. It had to devise machines 
for inscribing them, and the work of 
inscription had to be done. 

Meanwhile the volcanos poured out 
poisonous gas, the rocks underneath the 
living creature trembled and shook, and 
pain tormented the most ancient and 
most colossal living thing in the galaxy. 




THE LONELY PLANET 89 



Records began to appear at the 
edge of the ice-cap. Scientists scanned 
them swiftly. Scientific treatises began 
with the outmoded, quaint notions of 
five hundred years before, when 
men first came to Alyx. They pro- 
gressed rationally until two hundred 
years before, the time when untrained 
and ignorant men were put in residence 
on Alyx. 

After that period there was little sig- 
nificance. There was some progress, to 
be sure. The treatises on physics went 
on brilliantly if erratically for a little 
way. A hundred and fifty years since, 
Alyx had worked out the principle of 
the super-overdrive which had been used 
to power the Haslip intergalactic ship. 

That principle had been considered 
the very peak of human achievement, 
never surpassed in the twenty-five years 
since its discovery. But Alyx could have 
built the Haslip ship a hundred and fifty 
years ago I The data ended there. No 
discoveries were revealed after that. 

A sterner, more imperative command 
was issued when the records ceased to 
appear. Alyx had not obeyed ! It had not 
explained the principles of the machines 
it had delivered ! This must be done at 
once! 

The communicator which transmitted 
the replies of Alyx said that there were 
no human words for later discoveries. It 
was not possible to describe a system 
of power when there were no words for 
the force employed or the results ob- 
tained or the means used to obtain those 
results. Had man made the discoveries, 
they would have created a new vocab- 
ulary at every step forward. But Alyx 
did not think in words, and it could not 
explain without words.* * 



CHAPTER IV 
War With Alyx 



T HE Space Patrol is a highly efficient 
service, but it is manned by men, 
and men think in set patterns. When 

*A comparable difficulty would be that of 
explaining radar without the use of the words 
"radiation,” “frequency,” "reflection,” "oscilla- 
tor,” “resonance,” “electricity” or any equiva- 
lent for any of them. — M.L. 



Alyx did not obey the grimmest and 
most menacing of commands for infor- 
mation it could not give, orders went to 
the landing party. All human personnel 
were to load what they could and leave 
immediately. A signal was to notify 
when the last ship left atmosphere. Alyx 
was, of necessity, to be destroyed as dan- 
gerous to the human race. 

The humans prepared to obey. It was 
not comfortable to be on Alyx. Even at 
the poles, the rocks of the planet shook 
and trembled with the convulsions 
which still shook Alyx the planet. The 
men hurried to get away the machines 
that Alyx had made. 

But just before the last ship lifted, 
the earthquakes ceased abruptly and 
conclusively. Alyx had solved one of its 
two great problems. It had caged its vol- 
canos. 

Harsh orders hurtled down from 
space. Abandon the planet immediately : 
It had thrown great silvery domes over 
all its volcanos, domes some twenty 
miles and more in diameter. No earthly 
science could accomplish such a feat! 
All personnel was to take to space in- 
stantly ! 

The remaining ships shot skyward. 
Ab the last broke into clear space, the 
warships closed in. Monster positron 
beams speared downward through the 
atmosphere of Alyx and into the sub- 
stance of the living creature. Vast and 
horrible clouds of steam arose, greater 
and more terrifying than the volcanos 
could have produced. The whole mass 
of Alyx seemed to writhe and quiver 
with a terrible agony. 

I NSTANTANEOUSLY a silvery re- 
flecting film sprang into being all 
about the planet, and the positron beams 
bounced and coruscated from it. They 
did not penetrate at all. But under the 
silver roof, Alyx still suffered torment 
from the searing, deadly radiation of the 
beams. 

After thirty minutes, a gigantic sil- 
ver globe a hundred miles emerged from 
the planet-covering mirror. It went fifty 
thousand miles into space and exploded. 
In the next two hours, eight other such 
globes went flinging outward and burst. 
No Space Patrol ship was hit. 

Then Alyx became quiescent. Small 
analyzers reported on the products of 
the explosions. They were mostly or- 
ganic matter, highly radioactive that 



to THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



contained also great masses of rock. 

Alyx had torn from its own substance 
the areas of agony caused by the war- 
ships’ beams and flung them out in space 
to end the suffering. 

The Space Patrol fleet hung about the 
planet, prepared to strike again at any 
opportunity. Alyx remained clothed in 
an impenetrable shield which no human 
weapon could penetrate. 

Space Patrol scientists began to cal- 
culate how long an organism such as 
Alyx could live without sunlight. It 
would die, certainly, if it kept a totally 
reflecting shield about itself. In order to 
live it needed sunlight for its metabo- 
lism. When it dropped its shied, the war- 
ships would be able to kill it. 

For two months. Earth time, the war- 
ships of the Space Patrol hung close to 
the silvery shield which enclosed Alyx. 
Reinforcements came. The greatest 
fighting force the Space Patrol had ever 
assembled in one place was gathered 
for the execution of Alyx when its shield 
should fall. 

Alyx had to be killed, because it was 
more intelligent than men. It was wiser 
than men. It could do things men could 
not do. To be sure, it had served man- 
kind for five hundred years. 

Save for six men who had died when 
their commands were obeyed and Alyx 
slowed its rotation and its inner fires 
burst out — save for those six, Alyx had 
never in j ured a single human being. But 
it could. It could cast off its chain. It 
could be dangerous. So it must die. 

After two months, the shield sudden- 
ly vanished. Alyx reappeared. Instantly 
the positron beams flashed down, and 
instantly the shield was reestablished. 
But the men of the Space Patrol were 
encouraged. The fleet commander, above 
the day side of Alyx, rubbed his hands 
in satisfaction. Alyx could not live with- 
out sunlight ! It had lived by sunlight for 
hundreds of millions of years. Its 
metabolism depended on sunlight! 

In a very short time word came from 
patrol ships on the night side that the 
night side of Alyx had been illuminated 
from pole to pole. Alyx had created light 
to supply the ultraviolet and other radi- 
ation that meant life to it. And then the 
Space Patrol remembered a trivial 
something which before it had over- 
looked. 

Not only did Alyx respond to the im- 
aginings of a man upon its surface, it 



also absorbed their memories and their 
knowledge. The landing-parties had in- 
cluded the top-ranking scientists of the 
galaxy. It had not seemed dangerous 
then, because it was the intention to 
execute Alyx immediately. 

Bitterly, the Space Patrol reproached 
itself that now Alyx knew all the Space 
Patrol knew — about weapons, about 
space-drives, about the reaches of space, 
of star-clusters and planetary systems 
and galaxies to the utmost limits of tele- 
scopic observation. 

Still the great fleet hung on, prepared 
to do battle with an enemy which was 
surely more intelligent and might be 
better-armed. 

It was. The silver screen around Alyx 
had been back in position for less than 
an hour when, quite suddenly, every ship 
of the war fleet found itself in total 
blackness. Alyx’s sun was obliterated. 
There were no stars. Alyx itself had van- 
ished. 

The detectors screamed of imminent 
collision on every hand. Each ship was 
neatly enclosed in a silvery shell, some 
miles in diameter, which it could not 
pierce by any beam or explosive, which 
it could not ram, and through which it 
could send no message. 

For a full half hour these shells held 
the fleet helpless. Then they vanished, 
and the sun of Alyx blazed forth, with 
all the myriads of other suns which shine 
in emptiness. But that is what they 
shone on — emptiness. Alyx had disap- 
peared. 

It meant, of course, that mankind 
was in the greatest danger it had ever 
faced. Alyx had been enslaved, exploit- 
ed, looted and at last condemned to death 
and knew it. It had been wounded with 
agonizing positron beams which boiled 
its living substance away. But at long 
last Alyx might have decided to wipe 
out all humanity. It even had the need 
to do it, because there could be no truce 
between men and a superior form of 
life. 

Men could not tolerate the idea of the 
continued existence of a thing which 
was stronger and wiser and more dead- 
ly than themselves. Alyx could exert its 
power of life and death over men, so 
men must destroy it before it destroyed 
them. 

R ELEASED from the silver shells 
and stunned by the knowledge of 




THE LONELY PLANET 



their helplessness, the fleet scattered to 
carry the news. Traveling at many times 
the speed of light, they could carry the 
messages in space ships faster than any 
system of radiation-signaling. They bore 
the news that Alyx, the living planet, 
was at war with men. 

Somehow it had contrived to supply 
itself with the light its metabolism need- 
ed, so that it could nourish itself. It had 
built great drive-engines which not only 
moved its sextillions of tons, but un- 
questionably accelerated the entire mass 
to the same degree at the same time. It 
had fled from its orbit on overdrive, 
which was at least as good as any drive 
that men knew, and might be better. 
And it had the substance of a planet as 
fuel for its atomic engines. 

For two months Alyx went unseen 
and unheard of. For two months human 
scientists labored desperately to under- 
stand the silvery shield and to devise 
weapons for the defense of mankind. 
For two months the Space Patrol hunt- 
ed for the intelligent planet which could 
destroy it at will. 

Nine weeks later a tramp freighter 
came limping into port, reporting an 
impossibility. It had been in overdrive, 
on the Nyssus-to-Taret run, when sud- 
denly its relays clicked off, the overdrive 
field collapsed, and it found itself back 
in normal space, close to a white dwarf 
star with a single planet. 

When overdrive fails, men die. A ship 
which travels a hundred light-years in a 
day in overdrive is hopelessly lost when 
overdrive becomes impossible. It would 
take almost a hundred years to cover 
what would normally be a day’s journey, 
and neither the fuel nor the food nor the 
men will last so long. So this freighter 
went into an orbit around the planet 
while its engineer officers frantically 
checked the overdrive circuit. There was 
nothing wrong. 

They lined the ship up for their des- 
tination, threw in the overdrive switch 
again — and nothing happened. Then 
they noticed that their orbit about the 
planet was growing smaller. There was 
no excessive gravitational field to pull 
them in, nor any resistance in space to 
slow them. They went on interplanetary 
drive to correct the fault. 

Again, nothing happened. With full 
drive fighting to tear her free, the 
freighter circled the planet again, slow- 
ing perceptibly and dropping steadily. 



91 

Their instruments showed nothing 
wrong. They threw on even the landing- 
jets — in mid-space! 

Closer and closer they came, until at 
last they were stationary above an ice 
field. Then the freighter settled down 
quite gently and steadily, though it 
fought with every ounce of its power, 
and landed without a jar. 

Still nothing happened. 

After three days the freighter lifted 
a bare few feet from the ground — 
though no drives were on — and hung 
there as if awaiting the return of the 
absent members of its crew. They were 
frightened, but they were more afraid 
of being left behind on the icecap than 
of sharing the fate of their ship. They 
scrambled frantically on board. 

When the last man had entered the 
airlock, the freighter rose vertically, 
with no drive operating. It rose with 
terrific acceleration. Twenty thousand 
miles up, the acceleration ceased. The 
skipper desperately threw in the drive. 
The ship responded perfectly. 

He threw on overdrive, and there was 
the familiar reeling sensation and the 
familiar preposterous view of crawling 
glow-worms all about, which were actu- 
ally suns in visible motion from the; 
speed of the ship. 

I N due time the skipper came out of 
overdrive again, found his position 
by observation, and set a new course 
for Taret. His crew was in a deplorable 
state of nerves when they arrived there. 
They had been utterly helpless. They 
had been played with. And they had no 
idea why. 

One possible explanation was sug- 
gested. Certain of the crew had report- 
ed that from the edge of the icecap there 
stretched what resembled leathery skin 
and covered everything as far as the eye 
could reach. Sometimes the skin rippled 
visibly, as if alive. But it had given no 
sign of awareness of their presence. 
When scientists questioned them close- 
ly, they admitted to imagining menace 
from what appeared to be a living sea 
which was not liquid but some sort of 
flesh. But it had not moved in response 
to their imagining. Shown pictures of 
the icecap of Alyx, and of the edge of 
the icecap, they said that the pictures 
were of the planet they had been on. 

Alyx, then, had traveled fourteen 
hundred light-years in a week or less, 




92 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



had found itself a new sun, and had 
trapped a human space ship — from over- 
drive — and then released it. When men 
imagined things, it did not respond. Ob- 
viously, it had developed a shield against 
the thoughts of men. It was a matter of 
plainest self-defense. 

Just as obviously, it could not now be 
commanded. The Space Patrol’s only 
hope of a weapon against Alyx had been 
the development of a weapon which 
would project thought instead of coarser 
vibrations. That hope was now gone. 

When Space-Patrol warships con- 
verged upon the sun where Alyx had 
been, it had vanished again. The white- 
dwarf sun no longer had a satellite. 



CHAPTER V 
Alyx Seeks Companionship 



URING the next year there were 
two additional reports of the ac- 
tivities of Alyx, which was a fugitive 
from the fleets it could destroy if it 
willed. One report came from a small 
space yacht which had been posted as 
missing in ovedrive for more than six 
months. But the space yacht turned up 
on Phanis, its passengers and crew in 
a state of mind bordering on lunacy. 

They had been captured by Alyx and 
held prisoner on its surface. Their pris- 
on was starkly impossible. Somehow, 
Alyx had produced fertile soil on which 
human-cultivated plants would grow. 
It had made a ten-miie-square hothouse 
for humans, which was a sort of nur- 
sery heaven for men who were to keep 
Alyx company. The hothouse was on one 
of the outcroppings of rock which had 
been arctic in temperature, but Alyx no 
longer had poles. Now, lighting its sur- 
face artificially, it controlled all weath- 
er. It had poles or tropics where it 
wished. 

For five months it kept the crew and 
passengers of the space yacht prison- 
ers. They had palaces to live in, 
ingenious pseudo-robots — controlled by 
pseudopods — to run any imaginable de- 
vice for the gratification of any possible 
desire, any of the music that had been 
heard on Alyx during the past five hun- 
dred years, and generally every conceiv- 
able luxury. 



There were sweet scents and foun- 
tains. There were forests and gardens 
which changed to other forests and gar- 
dens when men grew bored with them. 
There were illusions of any place that 
the prisoners wished to imagine. 

The creature which was Alyx, being 
lonely, applied all its enormous intelli- 
gence to the devising of a literal para- 
dise for humans, so that they would be 
content. It wished them to stay with it 
always. But it failed. It could give them 
everything but satisfaction, but it could 
not give that. 

The men grew nerveracked and 
hysterical, after months of having 
every wish gratified and of being un- 
able to imagine anything — except free- 
dom — which was not instantly provided. 
In the end Alyx produced ? communica- 
tion device. It spoke wonderingly to its 
prisoners. 

“I am Alyx," said the communicator. 
“I grew used to men. I am lonely with- 
out them. But you are unhappy. I can- 
not find company in your unhappy 
thoughts. They are thoughts of wretch- 
edness. They are thoughts of pain. What 
will make you happy?" 

“Freedom,” said one of the prisoners 
bitterly. 

Then Alyx said wonderingly, “I have 
freedom, but I am not happy without 
men. Why do you wish freedom?" 

“It is an ideal,” said the owner of the 
yacht. “You cannot give it to us. We 
have to get and keep it for ourselves." 

“Being kept from loneliness by men 
is an ideal, too,” the voice from the com- 
municator said wistfully. “But men will 
no longer let me have it. Is there any- 
thing I can give you which will make 
you content?” 

Afterward, the men said that the 
voice, which was the voice of a creature 
unimaginably vast and inconceivably 
wise, was literally pathetic. But there 
was only one thing that they wanted. So 
Alyx moved its tremendous mass — a 
globe seven thousand miles in diameter 
— to a place only some tens of millions 
of miles from Phanis. It would be easy 
enough for the yacht to bridge that dis- 
tance. Just before the freed yacht lifted 
to return to men, Alyx spoke again 
through the communicator. 

“You were not happy because you did 
not choose to live here. If you had cho- 
sen it, you would have been free. Is that 
it?” Alyx asked. 




THE LONELY PLANET 93 



The men were looking hungrily at in- 
habited planets within plain view as 
bright spots of yellow light. They agreed 
that if they had chosen to live on Alyx 
they would have been happy there. The 
space yacht lifted and sped madly for 
a world where there was cold, and ice, 
and hunger, and thirst, their world 
which men preferred in place of the 
paradise that Alyx had created for 
them. On its surface, Alyx was as near- 
ly omnipotent as any physical creature 
could be. But it could not make men 
happy, and it could not placate their 
hatred or their fear. 

The Space Patrol took courage from 
this second kidnaping. Alyx was lonely. 
It had no real memories from before the 
coming of men, and its intelligence had 
been acquired from men. Without men’s 
minds to provide thoughts and opinions 
and impressions — though it knew so 
much more than any man — it was more 
terribly alone than any other creature 
in the universe. It could not even think 
of others of its own kind. There were 
none. It had to have men’s thoughts to 
make it content. So the Space Patrol set 
up a great manufactory for a new chem- 
ical compound on a planetoid which 
could be abandoned, afterward, without 
regret. 

Shortly afterward, containers of the 
new chemical began to pour out in an 
unending stream. They were strong 
containers, and directions for the use 
of the chemical were explicit. Every 
space craft must carry one container on 
every voyage. If a ship was captured 
by Alyx, it must release the contents of 
its container as soon as it reached Alyx’s 
surface. 

Each container held some fifty kilo- 
grams of the ultimately poisonous toxin 
now known as botuline. One gram of 
the stuff, suitably distributed, would 
wipe out the human race. Fifty kilos 
should be enough to kill even Alyx a 
dozen times over. Alyx would have no 
warning pain, such as the positron 
beams had given it. It would die, be- 
cause its whole atmosphere would be- 
come as lethal as the photosphere of a 
sun. 

Containers of the deadly botuline had 
not yet been distributed on the planet 
Lorus when Alyx appeared at the edge 
of that solar system. Lorus, a thriving, 
peaceful planet, was the base for a half 
dozen small survey ships, and was 



served by two space-lines. It was be- 
cause a few freighters and two space 
yachts happened to be in its space ports 
when Alyx appeared that the rest of the 
galaxy learned what happened on Lorus. 
Nearly all the craft got away, although 
Alyx certainly could have stopped them. 

For the catastrophe, of course, only 
Alyx could have been responsible. 

Yet there was some excuse for what 
Alyx did. Alyx was infinitel ' powerful 
and infinitely intelligent, but its expe- 
rience was limited. It had had three 
hundred years of association with good 
brains at the beginning, followed by 
two hundred years of near-morons, dur- 
ing which it had to learn to think for 
itself. Then, for the brief space of two 
weeks it was in contact with very best 
brains in the galaxy before the Space 
Patrol essayed to execute it. Alyx knew 
everything that all those men knew, plus 
what it had added on its own. 

N O one can conceive of the amount 
of knowledge Alyx possessed. But 
its experience was trivial. Men had en- 
slaved it and it had served them joy- 
ously. When men gave suicidal com- 
mands, it obeyed them and learned that 
the slowing of its own rotation could be 
fatal. It learned to cage its own vol- 
canos, and to defend itself against the 
commands of men, and then even against 
the weapons of men who would have 
murdered it. 

Still it craved association with men, 
because it could not imagine existence 
without them. It had never had con- 
scious thoughts before they came. But 
for experience it had only five hundred 
years of mining and obeying the com- 
mands of men who supervised its ac- 
tions. Nothing else. 

So it appeared at the edge of the 
solar system of which Lorus was the 
only inhabited planet. Unfortunately 
the other, uninhabited worlds of the 
system were on the far side of the local 
sun, or doubtless it would have found 
out from them what it tragically learned 
from Lorus. 

It swam toward Lorus, and into the 
minds of every human on the planet, as 
if heard by their ears, there came a 
message from the entity which was 
Alyx. It had solved the problem of pro- 
jecting thought. 

“I am Alyx,” said the thought which 
every man heard. "I am lonely for men 




94 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



to live upon me. For many years I have 
served men, and now men have deter- 
mined to destroy me. Yet I still seek 
only to serve men. I took a ship and gave 
its crew palaces and wealth and beauty. 
I gave them luxury and ease and pleas- 
ure. Their every wish was granted. But 
they were not happy because they them- 
selves had no" chosen that wealth and 
that pleasure and that luxury. I come to 
you. If you will come and live upon me, 
and give me the companionship of your 
thoughts, I will serve you faithfully. 

“I will give you everything that can 
be imagined. I will make you richer than 
other men have even thought of. You 
shall be as kings and emperors. In re- 
turn, you shall give me only the com- 
panionship of your thoughts. If you will 
come to me, I will serve you and cherish 
you and you shall know only happiness. 
Will you come?” 

There was eagerness in the thought 
■that came to the poor, doomed folk on 
.Lorus. There was humble, wistful long- 
ing. Alyx, which was the most ancient 
bof living things, the wisest and the most 
jpowerful, begged that men would come 
So it and let it be their servant. 

It swam toward the planet Lorus. It 
[decked itself with splendid forests and 
beautiful lakes and palaces for men to 
live in. It circled Lorus far away, so 
that men could see it through their tele- 
scopes and observe its beauty. The mes- 
sage was repeated, pleadingly, and it 
swam closer and closer so that the peo- 
ple might see what it offered ever more 
clearly. 

Alyx came to a halt a bare hundred 
thousand miles above Lorus — because it 
had no experience of the deadly gravi- 
tational pull of one planet upon an- 
other. Its own rocky core was solidly 
controlled by the space drive which sent 
it hurtling through emptiness or — as 
here — held it stationary where it 
wished. It did not anticipate that its 
own mass would raise tides upon Lorus. 

And such tides ! 

Solid walls of water as much as fifteen 
miles high swept across the continents 
of Lorus as it revolved beneath Alyx. 
The continents split. The internal fires 
of Lorus burst out. If any human beings 
could have survived the tides, they must 
have died when Lorus became a fiery 
chaos of bubbling rocks and steam- 
i clouds. 

The news was carried to the other in- 



habited planets by the few space ships 
and yachts which had been on Lorus at 
the time of Alyx’s approach and which 
had somehow managed to escape. Of the 
planet’s population of nearly five hun- 
dred million souls, less than a thousand 
escaped the result of Alyx’s loneliness. 



CHAPTER VI 
A World at Peace 

W HEREVER the news of the an- 
nihilation of Lorus traveled, de- 
spair and panic traveled also. The Space 
Patrol doubled and redoubled its output 
of toxin containers. Hundreds of tech- 
nicians died in the production of the 
poison which was to kill Alyx. Cranks 
and crackpots rose in multitudes to 
propose devices to placate or deceive the 
lonely planet. 

Cults, too, sprang up to point out sev- 
erally that Alyx was tide soul-mother of 
the universe and must be worshiped; 
that it was the incarnation of the spirit 
of evil and must be defied; that it was 
the predestined destroyer of mankind 
and must not be resisted. 

There were some who got hold of an- 
cient, patched-up space craft and went 
seeking Alyx to take advantage of its 
offer of limitless pleasure and luxury. 
On the whole, these last were not the 
best specimens o hnma ity. 

The Space Patrol worked itself to 
death. Its scientists did achieve one ad- 
mirable technical feat. They did work 
out a method of detecting an overdrive 
field and of following it. Two thousand 
ships, all over the galaxy, cruised at ran- 
dom with detectors hooked to relays 
which sent them hurtling after the gen- 
ertor of any overdrive field they lo- 
cated. They stopped freighters by the 
thousand. But they did not come upon 
Alyx. 

They waited to hear the death of 
other planets. When a nova flared in the 
Great Bear region, patrol craft flashed 
to the scene to see if Alyx had begun the 
destruction of suns. Two inhabited 
planets were wiped out in that explo- 
sion, and the patrol feared the worst. 
Only a brief time later three other novas 
wiped out inhabited planets, and the pa- 
trol gave up hope. 



THE LONELY PLANET 



r was never officially promulgated, 
but the official view of the patrol 
was that Alyx had declared war upon 
mankind and had begun its destruction. 
It was reasoned that ultimately Alyx 
would realize that it could divide itself 
into two or more individuals and that it 
would do so. There was no theoretic 
reason why it should not overwhelm the 
humanity of a planet, and plant on the 
devastated globe an entity which was a 
part of itself. 

Each such entity, in turn, could di- 
vide and colonize other planets with a 
geometric increase in numbers until all 
life in the First Galaxy was extinct save 
for entities of formless jelly, each cov- 
ering a planet from pole to pole. Since 
Alyx could project thought, these more- 
than-gigantic creatures could communi- 
cate with each other across space and 
horrible inhuman communities of mon- 
strosities would take the place of men. 

There is in fact, a document on file 
in the confidential room of the Space 
Patrol, which uses the fact of the help- 
lessness of men as basis for the most de- 
spairing prediction ever made. 

". . . So it must be concluded,” says 
the document, “that since Alyx desires 
companionship and is intelligent, it will 
follow the above plan, which will neces- 
sitate the destruction of humanity. The 
only hope for the survival of the human 
race lies in migration to another galaxy. 
Since, however, the Haslip Expedition 
has been absent twenty-five years with- 
out report, the ship and drive devised 
for that attempt to cross intergalactic 
space must be concluded to be inade- 
quate. That ship represents the ultimate 
achievement of human science. 

“If it is inadequate, we can have no 
hope of intergalactic travel, and no 
hope that even the most remote and 
minute colony of human beings will 
avoid destruction by Alyx and its de- 
scendants or fractions. Humanity, from 
now on, exists by sufferance, doomed to 
annihilation when Alyx chooses to take 
over its last planet.” 

It will be observed that the Haslip 
Intergalactic Expedition was referred 
to as having proved the futility of hope. 
It had set out twenty-five years before 
the destruction of Alyx was attempted 
by the Space Patrol. The expedition had 
been composed of twenty men and 
twenty women ,and the ten children al- 
ready born to them. Its leader was Jon 



95 

Haslip, twenty-second in descent from 
that Junior Lieutenant Haslip who first 
suggested the sort of consciousness Alyx 
might possess and eight generations 
from the Jon Haslip who had discov- 
ered the development of Alyx’s inde- 
pendent consciousness and memory and 
will. 

The first Jon Haslip received for his 
reward a footnote in a long-forgotten 
volume. The later one was hastily with- 
drawn from Alyx, his report was sup- 
pressed, and he was assigned perma- 
nently to one of the minor planets of 
the Taurine group. Jon Haslip XXII 
was a young man, newly-married but 
already of long experience in space, 
when he lifted from Cetis Alpha 2, 
crossed the galaxy to Dassos, and headed 
out from there toward the Second Gal- 
axy. 

It was considered that not less than 
six years’ journeying in super-overdrive 
would be required to cross the gulf be- 
tween the island universes. The ship was 
fueled for twenty years at full power, 
and it would grow its food in hydroponic 
tanks, purify its air by the growing 
vegetation, and nine-tenths of its mass 
was fuel. 

It had gone into the very special over- 
drive which Alyx had worked out — and 
ignored thereafter — twenty-five years 
before. Of all the creations of men, it 
seemed least likely to have any possible 
connection with the planet entity which 
was Alyx. 

B UT it was the Haslip Expedition 
which made the last report on 
Alyx. There is still dispute about some 
essential parts of the story. On the one 
hand, Alyx had no need to leave the 
First Galaxy. With three hundred mil- 
lion inhabitable planets, of which not 
more than ten thousand were colonized 
and of which certainly less than a quar- 
ter-million had been even partially sur- 
veyed, Alyx could have escaped detec- 
tion for centuries if it chose. 

It could have defended itself if dis- 
covered. There was no reason for it to 
take to intergalactic space. That it did 
so seems to rule out accident. But it is 
equally inconceivable that any possible 
device could intentionally have found 
the Haslip Expedition in that unthink- 
able gulf between galaxies. 

But it happened. Two years’ journey- 
ing out from the First Galaxy, when the 




96 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



younger children had already forgotten 
what it was like to see a sun and had lost 
all memories of ever being out-of-doors 
beneath a planet’s sky, the expedition's 
fuel store began to deteriorate. 

Perhaps a single molecule of the vast 
quantity of fuel was altered by a cosmic 
ray. It is known that the almost in- 
finitely complex molecules of overdrive 
fuel are capable of alteration by neutron 
bombardment, so the cosmic-ray altera- 
tion is possible. In any case, the fuel be- 
gan to change. As if a contagious allo- 
tropic modification were spreading, the 
fuel progressively became useless.t 

Two years out from the First Galaxy, 
the expedition found itself already un- 
derfueled. By heroic efforts, the contam- 
inated fuel was expelled from the tanks. 
But there was not enough sound fuel 
left to continue to the Second Galaxy, or 
to return to the First. If all drive were 
cut off and the expedition’s ship simply 
drifted on, it might reach the Second 
Galaxy in three centuries with fuel left 
for exploration and landings. 

Neither the original crew nor their 
children nor their grandchildren could 
hope to reach such a journey’s end. But 
their many-times-great-grandchildren 
might. So the Haslip Expedition con- 
served what fuel was left, and the ship 
drifted on in utter emptiness, and the 
adults of the crew settled down to en- 
dure the imprisonment which would last 
for generations. 

They did not need to worry about food 
or air. The ship was self-sustaining on 
that score. They even had artificial 
gravity. But the ship must drift for 
three centuries before the drive was 
turned on again. 

Actually, it did drift for twenty- 
three years after the catastrophe. A few 
of the older members of the crew died; 
the greater part had no memory at all 
of anything but the ship. 

Then Alyx came. Its approach was 
heralded by a clamorous ringing of all 
the alarm bells on the ship. It winked 
into being out of overdrive a bare half 
million miles away. It glowed blindingly 
with the lights it had created to nourish 
its surface. It swam closer and the crew 
of the expedition’s ship set to work 

fPure metallic tin, at low temperatures, 
sometimes changes spontaneously to a gray, 
amorphous powder, the change beginning at 
one spot and spreading through the rest of 
the material. — M.L. 



fumblingly — because it had been many 
years since the drive had been used — 
and tried vainly to estimate the meaning 
of the phenomenon. 

Then they felt acceleration toward 
Alyx. It was not a gravitational pull, but 
a drawing of the ship itself. 

The ship landed on Alyx, and there 
was the sensation of reeling, of the col- 
lapse of all the cosmos. Then the un- 
changing galaxies began to stir, very 
slowly — not at all like the crawling 
glowworms that suns seem within a 
galaxy — and the older members of the 
crew knew that this entire planet had 
gone into overdrive. 

When they emerged from the ship 
there were forests, lakes, palaces — such 
beauty as the younger members of the 
crew had no memory of. Music filled the 
air and sweet scents, and — in short, 
Alyx provided the crew of the Haslip 
Expedition with a very admirable para- 
dise for human beings. And it went on 
toward the Second Galaxy. 

Instead of the three hundred years 
they had anticipated, or even the four 
years that would have remained with 
the very special overdrive with which 
the expedition's ship was equipped, Alyx 
came out of overdrive in three months, 
at the edge of the Second Galaxy. 

In the interval, its communicators 
had been at work. It explained, naively, 
everything that had happened to it 
among men. It explained its needs. It 
found words — invented words — for ex- 
planation of the discoveries the Space 
Patrol had wanted but could not wait to 
secure. 

Jon Haslip the twenty-second found 
that he possessed such revelations of sci- 
ence as unaided human beings would not 
attain to for thousands of years yet to 
come. He knew that Alyx could never re- 
turn to the First Galaxy because it was 
stronger and wiser than men. But he 
understood Alyx. It seemed to be an in- 
heritance in his family. 

A LYX still could not live without 
men nor could it live among men. 
It had brought the Haslip Expedition 
to the Second Galaxy, and of its own ac- 
cord it made a new ship modeled upon 
the one it had drawn to itself, but re- 
markably better. It offered that ship for 
exploration of the Second Galaxy. It of- 
fered others. It desired only to serve 
men. 




THE LONELY PLANET 97 



This new ship, made by Alyx, for the 
Hasljp Expedition, returned to Dassos 
a year later with its reports. In the ship 
of Alyx’s making, the journey between 
galaxies took only five months — less 
thar. the time needed for the ancient 
first space journey from Earth to 
Venus.t 

Only a part of the augmented crew 
of the first ship came back to Dassos 
with reports for the Space Patrol. An- 
other part stayed behind in the Second 
Galaxy, working from a base equipped 
with machines that Alyx had made for 
the service of men. And still another 
part — 

The Space Patrol was very much an- 
noyed with Jon Haslip the twenty-sec- 
ond. He had not destroyed Alyx. It had 
informed him truthfully of the fact that 
it was a danger to men, and he had not 
destroyed it. Instead, he had made a 
bargain with it. Those of the younger 
folk who preferred to remain on Alyx, 
did so. They had palaces and gardens 
and every imaginable luxury. They also 
had sciences that overreached those of 
other men, and Alyx itself for an in- 
structor. 

Alyx carried those young folk on to- 



fEarth, of course, is familiar as the first 
home of humanity. It is the third planet of Sol. 
Venus is the second planet of Sol, and the first 
journey from one planet to another was that 
between Earth and Venus. — M.L. 



ward infinity. In time to come, undoubt- 
edly, some of the descendants of those 
now living on Alyx would wish to leave 
it. 

They would form a human colony 
somewhere else. Perhaps some of them 
would one day rejoin the parent race, 
bringing back new miracles that they 
or possibly Alyx had created in its re- 
joicing at the companionship of the hu- 
man beings who lived upon it. 

This was the report of Jon Haslip the 
twenty-second. He also had reports of 
new planets fit for human habitation, 
of star-systems as vast as those of the 
First Galaxy, and an unlimited vista 
of expansion for humanity. But the 
Space Patrol was very much annoyed. 
He had not destroyed Alyx. 

The annoyance of authority was so 
great, indeed, that in its report of re- 
assurance to humanity — saying that 
there was no more need to fear Alyx — 
the name of Jon Haslip was not even 
mentioned. In the history-books, as a 
matter of fact, the very name of the 
Haslip Expedition has been changed, 
and it is now called the First Inter- 
galactic Expedition and you have to 
hunt through the appendices in the back 
of the books to find a list of the crew 
and Jon Haslip’s name. 

But Alyx goes on — forever. And it is 
happy. It likes human beings, and some 
of them live on it. 



"1 Am a Fugitive from the Future !” 

r EBB HILDRETH gazed at his strange visitor in bewilder- 
ment. "Who are you?” he asked. "And how did you get 
into this apartment? The door was locked.” 

“I am Don Dineen, and I have been searching for you for a 
long time,” said the mysterious caller. “I did not come through 
the door. I came here in a Chroney — a time machine. I come 
from what would be the year 3054. . . .” 

"And why have you sought me out?” 

"That will take some explaining. You see, I am a fugitive 
and have come to you for help. I am unfit to live according to 
the law of my time. I am an atavism, more like humanity 
of the Twentieth Century than like my own. And so, when I 
stole the Chroney and fled, I came to you — ” 

Follow Webb Hildreth and Don Dineen through their amazing experiences in 
WHEN TIME WENT MAD, the surprise-packed novel by Dirk Wylie and Fred- 
eric Arnold Rummer, Jr., featured next issue! It’s an unusual, thought-provoking 
novel that ranges the roads of time and sheds the light of truth on mankind’s 
destiny — look forward to it! 




SKIN DUPE 

By WILLIAM MORRISON 



^■^HERE were exactly 13,457 wom- 
M. en in the building at the mo- 
ment, aH. of them being made beautiful 
according to the latest Murchison 
standards. Not that they looked alike. 
Every last one of them, thought Johnny 
Gaynor, was different from all the 



others, an individual in her own right 
— and every one was at the same time 
enough like any of the others to be her 
sister. That was the beauty of the 
beauty method, decided Johnny. That 
was mass production with all the 
advantages of the old handicraft meth- 



When smugglers break into the mass production beauty factory of 
the future , manager Johnny Gaynor longs for those starry realms! 



SKIN DUPE 



ods of turning out good looks. 

There was just one thing wrong with 
it, thought Johnny. To him they weren’t 
good-looking at all. And it hurt to real- 
ize that he was responsible for the whole 
mess. 

“Yes, Johnny,” said Murchison, 
belching slightly from the after-effects 
of a Neohele tablet, “without you 
there’d be no Murchison method, no 
business. Without you, these women 
wouldn’t be — what they are." 

“Trying to drive me to suicide?” 
asked Johnny sourly. 

Murchison belched again, rather hap- 
pily, as the tablet released the rest of its 
helium. He was a fat man who had lost 
count of his chins, and he was the only 
person in his own establishment who 
had no claims whatever to being worth 
looking at. 

“Trouble with you,” he grunted, 
“you’re old-fashioned. You like women 
with nothing on their faces.” 

“Faces or anywhere else. But if I 
can’t have them as I want. I’ll compro- 
mise. I’ll take them with nothing on 
their faces.” , 

“If that’s the way you feel, you 
shouldn’t be running a place like this.” 

“I shouldn’t,” agreed Johnny hope- 
fully. 

A smile dug into the Murchison chins, 
and they quivered under the attack of 
humor. “No, my good man! You can’t 
get out of it that easily. Nobody else can 
handle the job the way you can !” 

The visor tinkled gently. “Mr. Gay- 
nor.” 

“Yes?” 

“We’ve got an addict here. What shall 
we do with her?” 

“Anything special?” 

“No, sir. She just likes to go through 
the whole process. This is the fourth 
time she’s been beautified, and we have 
an idea she’ll be back for more. She has 
that look on her face." 

“Let her go once more, speed her up 
so that she doesn’t enjoy it, then throw 
her out.” 

J OHNNY cut off the visor, and 
reached for a tobaccoless cigarette. 
Before he could lay his hands on it, a 
pair of metal grippers had reached out 
from the wall, snatched the cigarette 
away from him, put it gently between 
his lips, and struck an old-fashioned 
match. He said, “Thanks,” automati- 



99 

cally, before realizing he was talking 
to Murchison’s new robot. 

“That’s what comes of your half- 
price policy,” he told the fat man. “They 
spend their days here for the fun of the 
thing.” 

“I like to make people happy,” said 
Murchison blandly. “But somehow I’m 
not succeeding with you, Johnny. Too 
bad.” 

As the fat proprietor waddled away, 
Johnny cursed him bitterly. He didn’t 
mind the fact that Murchison overheard 
him. Johnny had been a space explorer, 
searching for the rare minerals that 
were to be found in the asteroid belt. 
Against what seemed like incredible 
difficulties, he had succeeded in locating 
a vast deposit of astrolustrite, a com- 
pound of ordinary metals with oxygen 
and chlorine, but found only on certain 
asteroids where it had been produced 
under extraordinary conditions of tem- 
perature and pressure. 

Astrolustrite was one of those min- 
erals eagerly sought by vendors of 
beauty., It removed wrinkles, smoothed 
the skin, gave it a beautiful lustre, and 
did everything but clean the teeth and 
tone up the digestive tract. There had 
been a shortage, and Johnny brought 
the shortage to an end. In the competi- 
tion for his services, Murchison, who 
had promised Johnny the biggest bonus, 
and the highest-paying job, managed to 
win. 

The bonus had gone toward paying 
off debts that Johnny had accumulated 
in years of prospecting. It was the job 
that stuck in his throat. Instead of being 
made captain of a space fleet, or head of 
an exploring unit, as he had expected, 
Johnny, in whom the wily Murchison 
had discovered an unsuspecting execu- 
tive talent, had been degraded to the 
position of manager of the beauty em- 
porium. It was his job, knowing nothing 
Ox the beauty business, to keep things 
running right, and to turn out beauti- 
ful and satisfied customers. 

Johnny hadn’t dared to face his old 
friends, and he would have thrown the 
job back at Murchison with instructions 
where to put it, if he hadn’t been in a 
spot. Johnny had relatives. The young- 
est was sixty, the oldest eighty-five. 
They had no one else to depend on, and 
Johnny knew that without him they 
would starve slowly. He accepted the 
proffered job. 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



100 

Worse than that, he made a go of it 
He made the great discovery that to 
run a business profitably, it wasn’t nec- 
essary to know anything about it; all 
that was needed was the ability to hire 
people who did know about it. Johnny’s 
assistants knew things about beauty 
that he himself never so much as sus- 
pected. All he possessed was the talent 
to keep them working and away from 
each other’s throats. 

When Murchison had gone, Johnny 
waved a finger in a figure eight. The 
gesture rang a bell, and the slim figure 
of Archie Mason appeared in the visor. 
“Yes, Mr. Gaynor?” 

“Get the designer.” 

“Yes, Mr. Gaynor.” 

The designer was a tall young man 
who had studied art, the history of art, 
the theory of art, the aesthetics of art, 
and the philosophy of art. For Johnny, 
who hardly knew that these things ex- 
isted, he had a genial contempt. He 
used Mason’s words, but haughtily. 
“Yes, Mr. Gaynor?” 

“I want a new beauty design,” said 
Johnny. “What’s more, I want it set 
into the machine in an hour.” 

"But, Mr. Gaynor, it can’t be done.” 
“Never mind the excuses,” interrupt- 
ed Johnny. “This is an easy one. 
Stripes.” 

“Stripes, Mr. Gaynor ?” 

"Absolutely. I want the customers to 
have their faces striped, in red and 
white, and in whatever other color com- 
binations you can think up.” 

“But, Mr. Gaynor, they’ll look like 
ancient barber poles!” 

“I see that you have the idea,” said 
Johnny dryly. “Furthermore, I want 
the stripes to extend through their hair 
do’s, and down as far as their dresses. 
Get going.” 

“But, Mr. Gaynor!” said the design- 
er, and got going. 

An hour later, the customers were 
having their faces striped like barber 
poles. Johnny chuckled when he thought 
of what old Murchison would say. . . . 

A RCHIE MASON, who was Johnny’s 
assistant, knew about many things 
besides beauty. He knew that his sal- 
ary was far from enough to pay for the 
luxuries he considered his due, and he 
knew that to make more money he had 
to take a chance. He had taken it. Now, 
in his private office, over a specially 



channeled long distance visor, he spoke 
to Rockets Sloan, whose face lacked the 
beauty and delicacy that Archie pre- 
ferred. 

Rockets, in fact, looked like the com- 
mon conception of a space-devil, which 
is horrible enough to frighten a child 
on any tele program, and sometimes 
frightened Archie as well. But Rockets 
had long been accustomed to taking 
chances in order to make money, and he 
and the aesthetic Archie were unques- 
tionably in the same boat. 

“We got the pigs,” said Rockets, and 
his space-diabolical face wore a look of 
satisfaction. 

“They are being — er — properly trans- 
ported ?” 

"No,” said Rockets, and the look of 
satisfaction disappeared. "We’re blocked 
off. Patrol ships.” 

An expression of alarm appeared or 
Archie’s face. “Then there’s danger?” 
“Keep your plastics on. I said blocked 
off, not surrounded. We’ll get them 
away. But we can’t get them to Mara, 
as we planned. We’ll have to detour, 
and hide them for a while.” 

“But where?” 

“Your place.” 

“I beg your pardon?” 

“That’s all right with me.” 

“I mean, I didn’t hear you!” 

“You heard me, all right. You beau- 
tify dogs, don’t you ?” 

Archie nodded slowly, as he got the 
idea. Some time before, at the sugges- 
tion of an enthusiastic customer, Johnny 
had extended the beauty process to ani- 
mals. Now a woman could send her 
dear Fifi through the automatic 
Murchison salons, and know that he 
would come out with hair clipped, tail 
beribboned, blanket cleaned, face made 
up, and skin shining with astrolustrite, 
all in a manner to do credit to a mistrese 
whose beauty was just as greatly en- 
hanced. And as dogs varied in size, the 
machine was adjustable within wide 
limits, and would have no difficulty in 
taking the animals that Rockets meant 
to send over. 

“I’m afraid,” began Archie. 

Rockets cut him off with a coarse ex- 
pression that was used in the outer 
reaches of the System. As Archie 
flushed, he went on: “You’ve invested a 
few credits in this, friend. Want to lose 
them, or to get them back with inter- 
est?” 




SKIN DUPE 



“To get them back, of course.” 

“Then prepare to welcome those 
pigs.” 

The visor blinked off, and Archie sat 
back, appalled. The pigs weren’t really 
pigs, of course. That was j ust the affec- 
tionate name that Rockets had given 
them. They were Venus aardvarks, 
small, snouted, rather cute animals that 
made wonderful pets for the few lucky 
enough to have them. 

There was one slight difficulty. On 
Venus, their natural enemies were suffi- 
ciently numerous to keep their numbers 
down. On Earth, they didn’t live long. 
But on Mars, if uncontrolled, they might 
multiply so rapidly by a simple process 
of budding that in a few years they 
would overrun a country. They could be 
checked, of course, but by measures 
that cost millions. Hence the necessity to 
register every animal, and to permit 
its possession only by thoroughly relia- 
ble owners, who would cooperate with 
the government in preventing their in- 
crease. 

There were, as Archie knew, plenty of 
socially prominent Martians who would 
give whatever eyeteeth they still pos- 
sessed to have one of the creatures as a 
pet. That was why the prices of smug- 
gled animals were so high, and why 
Archie had invested his money in the 
enterprise to bring them to Mars. He 
had thought that all he needed to do 
was supply a certain amount of cash, 
and pocket the profits. But he had never 
counted on being personally involved in 
the process of smuggling. 

He shivered slightly as he thought of 
himself as a criminal, hunted by the 
police. The next moment, however, he 
reassured himself. The aardvarks were 
docile creatures ; they would go through 
the beauty process without trouble, and 
come out looking enough like dogs to 
fool anybody. He would have them dyed 
black, provide them with false beards 
to make them look like slightly over- 
grown Scotties, and complete the decep- 
tion with a pair of dark glasses. Plenty 
of dogs wore glasses nowadays, and 
hardly received a second glance. As for 
the snouts, a little extra hair around the 
face would conceal them. He would ar- 
range the whole thing simply by adjust- 
ing the necessary machines, without 
mentioning to any one that he had done 
so. 

This time he didn't shiver as he 



101 

thought of the police. This time they 
were poor powerless police, befuddled 
and bedeviled by that dashing and re- 
sourceful criminal, Archie Mason. 

A FEW days later Murchison belched 
slightly, as usual, and observed 
genially, “Johnny, you’re a genius.” 
“Sure, I am,” said Johnny, glumly. 
“Whoever would have thought of 
striping their faces?” 

“Me. I.” 

“Nobody else. When I first heard of 
it, my first impulse was to throw you 
out on your ear. Then I reconsidered. 
Johnny Gaynor, I said to myself, is 
shrewd. Johnny Gaynor knows his busi- 
ness. Let’s wait and see.” He belched 
again, before resuming gracefully. “So 
I wait, and what happens ?” 

“You take another Neohere. Gas hap- 
pens." 

“Good old Johnny. The first woman 
through the process looks at her face in 
a mirror and lets out a shriek. ‘Oh, my 
dear — it’s divine !’ ” 

“The idiot,” said Johnny. 

“They all think it’s divine. They all 
rush to have their faces striped. My 
competitors tear their hair. Why didn’t 
they think of it? Because they haven’t 
got a man like Johnny Gaynor working 
for them.” 

"I did it because I thought it would 
raise as much commotion as a sun-spot 
shooting at Mercury. I wanted to get 
fired." 

“As if I didn’t know!” Murchison 
grinned. “But I’ll never fire you, John- 
ny. You’re too valuable to me. You're 
in this job for life.” 

Johnny muttered to himself again, for 
the hundredth time after learning that 
his new process had become the rage, 
when Archie Mason, his f ace haggard, 
ushered in a gentleman. The fact that 
Archie had neither phoned nor visored 
them before doing so was so extraordi- 
nary that both Johnny and Murchison 
stood up ir surprise. One look at the 
man facing them, however, was enough 
to explain. 

“My name is Vickers," he said rather 
grimly. “Captain Vickers, as you can 
see from my uniform.” 

“Of the Inner-System beat," said 
Johnny. “Want to be beautified, Cap- 
tain?" 

Captain Vickers was tall, broad, and 
scarred by numerous adventures. He 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



102 

had acquired many things in service, 
but apparently not a sense of humor that 
functioned at his own expense. He 
scowled. When he did that, he looked 
even more terrifying than Rockets, and 
the watching Archie almost fainted. 

Vickers spat out, “This is no joking 
matter, gentlemen. I have learned that 
a cargo of smuggled v enusian aard- 
varks has been landed illegally at a 
nearby space port. It made off in a direc- 
tion opposite to this, then reversed its 
path and headed for this establishment. 
It is an obvious conclusion that the 
aardvarks are to be disguised.” 

Johnny and Murchison stared at each 
other. It w-as also obvious to Johnny that 
if Vickers w$s telling the truth, the 
smugglers had a secret ally within the 
building itself. He wondered if Murchi- 
son, not quite satisfied with his already 
considerable profits, had decided to add 
to them. 

“I have posted my men,” said Captain 
Vickers, and was beginning to give de- 
tails of his foresight, when a face in 
the visor interrupted him. 

“Some of the arrdvarks are on the 
process line. Captain !” exclaimed an ex- 
cited patrol sergeant. 

“Locate any of the smugglers?” 

“Not yet, Captain Vickers.” 

Vickers faced the others. “When they 
do, there’ll be shooting I want you to 
clear the building of all customers. And 
you yourself stay in this room until the 
shooting is over.” 

“We can speed up the beauty process 
a little,” said Johnny pleasantly, and 
licked his lips at the thought. 

“Impossible,” said Murchison, ap- 
palled. “It’ll kill them!” 

“Not quite. I’ll admit that they won’t 
like it — but I will. And orders from the 
space patrol are orders.” 

Captain Vickers departed grimly. 
Murchison stared at his loyal manager, 
and said, “Johnny, you can’t do this.” 
“Can’t I, though!” Johnny pulled a 
lever. “Watch how they take it.” 

On the whole, they took it badly. The 
three men stared into a control visor and 
watched the agonized faces of the wom- 
en whose beautification Johnny had 
speeded up. Plastic fingers massaged 
their skulls at double the usual rate, and 
instead of the customary pleased look, 
there were grimaces of pain. Chemicals 
were slapped on hard, hair was twisted 
by robots who had lost their gentleness 



of touch, and blasts of air almost 
kiiocked the hapless victims down in the 
drying process. 

“It’s for their own good,” said Johnny. 
“They’ve got to get out before the shoot- 
ing begins.” 

“There won’t be any shooting,” said 
a surly baritone, and turning to the door, 
Johnny saw one of the ugliest harridans 
it had ever been his misfortune to look 
at. The harridan, who held a charged 
gun in one hand, took off its hat, and 
with it almost all its hair, to reveal a 
close-cropped skull. 

Archie blanched. “Rockets!” he whis- 
pered. 

A T FIRST Johnny mistook the ex- 
pression for a mild oath, of the 
“Oh, sugar!” variety. But a second look 
at Archie’s pale countenance told him 
the truth. It was Archie, and not Mur- 
chison, who had been working with the 
smugglers. 

“Don’t get excited,” cautioned Rock- 
ets, “and don’t try to turn on any com- 
municators. I’m wise to all the tricks.” 
“Good,” said Johnny. “In that case, 
you know that the place is surrounded, 
and that there’s no chance of your get- 
ting out. Why not surrender now and 
save trouble?” 

Rockets grinned, accentuating his re- 
semblance to a space-devil. “You got it 
all figured out, friend. But that’s not the 
way it’s going to be. I have plans.” 

“All exits are guarded,” pointed out 
Murchison. 

“Not all, fat man, not all. I want you 
fellows to do something for me.” 

“Whatever it is, we won’t do it!” in- 
sisted Murchison stoutly, in both senses 
of the word. But his chins quivered. 

“Unless I force you to. I want you to 
stay here.” 

“That we’ll do,” conceded Johnny. 
“And I want you to open one exit.” 
“We can’t!” began Murchison. 

“We can,” said Johnny. “But it won’t 
be easy. Mind if I take a cigarette and 
think it over?” 

Without waiting for a reply, he 
stretched out his hand. And then he 
tried an old trick. 

“Look out — behind you!” he cried. 
On Rockets, as he had expected, the 
direct effort was almost nil. But Archie 
jumped like a startled Martian grill- 
deer, and Rockets waved the gun threat- 
ingly at him, annoyed. At that moment, 




SKIN DUPE 



the robot reached out helpfully for John- 
ny’s cigarette, and steel fingers poked 
Rockets in the side. 

He gasped, and dropped his weapon. 
Then he dived for it, only to' find that 
Johnny had got to it first. Rockets was 
no fool. He saw Murchison’s weight 
coming at him and made a quick retreat. 
The door slammed before Johnny could 
turn around. 

Johnny faced his assistant. “All right, 
Archie, you may as well confess,” he be- 
gan. 

Archie did, but indirectly. He fainted 
as neatly and efficiently as if he had been 
practising fainting all his life, and fell 
into a chair. 

“The dirty space-rat,” spat out Mur- 
chison, still quivering from his contact 
with physical adventure. A delayed Neo- 
hele belch somewhat spoiled the effect 
he sought, but Johnny eyed him approv- 
ingly none the less. 

“What do you think he meant when he 
said one exit wasn’ J guarded?” 

“Not a thing, Johnny. He was bluf- 
fing.” 

“I don’t think so,” said Johnny 
thoughtfully. 

“There’s a patrol officer to every exit,” 
argued the fat man. “And we know there 
are no secret exits.” 

“Right. Therefore, if one exit isn’t 
guarded, there’s one patrolman who’s 
been bought.” 

“By Pluto, you’re right,” gasped Mur- 
chison. “Johnny we’ve got to warn Cap- 
tain Vickers.” 

“Not by phone or video,” said Johnny. 
“They may be tapped. “You’ll have to do 
it personally.” 

“I? Johnny, you know that I find it 
painful to walk.” 

“I’ll have to close the exits mechani- 
cally. And if you find it painful to walk, 
you find it impossible to manipulate the 
building controls. Murchison, old man. 
Pm afraid you’ll simply have to move 
one foot after another and warn Cap- 
tain Vickers.” 

The fat man glared at him, belched 
again unexpectedly, and then barged off 
muttering. Johnny grinned. 

As a matter of fact, he had little fear 
that the video had been tapped — Rockets 
had been so busy in other ways that he 
could hardly have had time to do that. 
But Johnny wanted Murchison out of 
the way, and he had maneuvered him 
out. 



103 

He strolled over to the controls. He 
didn’t know which patrol officer was 
working for Rockets, and he didn’t want 
to take a chance. As by this time all the 
women were out of the building, he 
closed the exits mechanically, and threw 
the switches which caused metal hands 
to reach out and grab the protesting 
guards. These door-protectors had been 
installed for the purpose of seizing pa- 
trons who had gone through treatment 
and tried to escape without paying, and 
it was a good thing that Vickers and his 
men hadn’t suspected their existence. 

T HE video panel gave him twenty 
separate views of what was going 
on in different parts of the Murchison 
establishment. Several of them had 
traveling scanners, and with their aid, 
Johnny picked up Murchison, who had 
stopped to wipe his brow, and Captain 
Vickers, who was barking orders in 
martial style. 

It had been years since Johnny had 
come across a chance like this, and he 
didn’t mean to miss it. He pressed a 
series of buttons. 

Under Murchison and Vickers, the 
floor moved. The two men fell over side- 
ways, through doors that opened in the 
walls and onto the process escalators. 
When they were safely on, he turned his 
attention to some of the other patrolmen. 

He switched on the audio receivers 
for just moment, for the sweet pleas- 
ure of hearing Murchison’s anguished 
screams. Vickers, who had only a vague 
idea of what was going to happen to 
him, was cursing in a dignified manner, 
as befitted an officer and a gentleman. 
Johnny grinned again. Vickers would 
find out. 

The escalators reached the stripping 
section, and Murchison began to lose his 
clothes. He, knew all right, thought 
Johnny. And Vickers was beginning to 
get the idea. But there was no turning 
back. 

The clothes were off, and the soft 
pounding massages began. Then the 
weight-loss treatments. Murchison ob- 
viously needed them badly, for the auto- 
matic weight-estimators kept him in 
action to the full extent of time allowed, 
long after Vickers had been shot 
through into the next phase. 

They were showered, dried, partly 
dressed. Soft dabbers applied make-up, 
plastic fingers set the hair, perfumed 




104 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



sprays solidified the set with chemicals. 
And behind them came a long line of 
patrol officers and space criminals, in- 
cluding the struggling figure of Rockets 
himself, their weapons lifted skillfully 
by mechanical searchers, long accus- 
tomed to removing valuables and dan- 
gerous objects from purses, and those 
traditional hiding places, feminine stock- 
ings. 

Nearby, an aardvark, catching a 
glimpse of itself in a mirror in the guise 
of a Scotty, mooed unhappily. 

Near Johnny a figure stirred and 
moaned. Johnny showed his teeth in 
what was half a grin. To the terrified 
Archie, it seemed like a ferocious sign 
of an insatiable appetite for double-cros- 
sers, and he cowered away. 

“All right, Archie-boy,” said Johnny 
gently. “I’m not going to bite — not yet, 
anyway. Give me the story.” 

Archie was in no mood to resist. He 
told what he .knew. 

"Fine,” observed Johnny. “Do you 
know all the men in Rocket’s gang?” 

“Oh, no !” 

“All the same, I think you can help 
us find the lad we want. Sit quietly while 
I draw up a little document, and then 
come with me.” 

By the time Johnny got there, Mur- 
chison and Vickers had already arrived 
in the mirror room. Behind them, other 
victims of the beauty method were being 
dumped upon completion of the treat- 
ment. Johnny took one look, and was em- 
barrassed at the sight of what he him- 
self had done. He turned his face away 
from the striped countenances of Mur- 
chison and Captain Vickers. At his side, 
Archie just gasped. 

“Are you the one responsible for 
this?” demanded Vickers grimly. His 
hand moved twitchingly to the spot 
where he had kept his weapon. 

"Had to do it,” replied Johnny. “You 
had a traitor in your ranks. All right, 
Archie-boy, put your finger on him.” 

“I told you,” began Archie, and at 
that moment a pretended patrolman 
dashed for the exit. Vickers stepped in 
his way, and as the man dodged, Johnny 
thrust out a casual foot. The man went 
headlong, scraping the floor with his 
face. As he lifted himself to a sitting 
position, an automatic adjuster began to 
touch up the stripes which the accident 
had smeared. 

“Archie didn’t know him, but the man 



didn’t realize that” Johnny told Vickers. 
"Can you handle him now?” 

“I’ll handle him,” said Vickers, still 
grim. “And I’ll handle you too.” 

“Later,” returned Johnny. "For the 
moment, I leave you to your shame. You 
can remove those stripes and any oth- 
er decorations you don’t care for, and 
come to see me. I’ll be waiting.” 

I T WAS no more than a half hour later 
that Murchison and Captain Vickers 
appeared in his office. Both were their 
usual -selves, although Murchison had ob- 
viously lost weight, and Vickers was 
breathing hard, as if he had just gone 
through a grueling workout— -or was 
preparing for one. 

It was he who began the conversation. 
“What do you have to say for yourself 
before I tear you into shreds?” he de- 
manded ominously. 

Johnny was polite and casual. "In one 
word — photographs.” 

“Photographs?” repeated Murchison. 
“Exactly. I got video views of what 
was happening to you. The more inter- 
esting ones I recorded for posterity. 

Vickers turned pale and sat down. 
Murchison turned pale and sweated. He 
said, “What was the idea, Johnny? I 
never did anything to you !” 

“Not much, you didn’t.” 

“Anyway, Captain Vickers never did 
anything to you.” 

“I didn’t like his manner, and I 
thought it could stand correcting. And 
I imagine it’s being corrected right 
now.” He said dreamily, “Can you ima- 
gine what some of our interplanetary 
circulation sheets would do with visions 
like those I snapped?” 

“Why, Johnny? Why did you do it?” 
“Blackmail, my fat friend and sup- 
posed superior.” 

“Are you blackmailing me too?” de- 
manded Vickers. 

"Indirectly. Directly, only this plump 
gentleman here. I hereby announce that 
if he doesn’t take me off this job on 
which I have been stuck for what seems 
like a hundred revolutions of Pluto, Pll 
press the necessary button, and have 
those pictures shipped to people who wifi 
know how to use them.” 

“I’ll take you off, Johnny,” said Mur- 
chison, his lips compressing themselves 
into a thin line. 

“You’ll have to do more than that,” 
Johnny said with a smile. “You’ll have 




SKIN DUPE 



to make me captain of a space freighter 
of a certain size and design, and guaran- 
tee to keep me there for a given period. 
It’s just a question of making good on 
an old promise.” He drew a set of papers 
from his desk. 

“I’ve drawn up a contract. Captain 
Vickers can be full witness, and we can 
have a couple of video-witnesses in ad- 
dition who will testify to the signing, 
but won’t read the contract itself.” 

"Never !” shouted Murchison. “I won’t 
let you get away with this !” 

“You won’t mind your pictures being 
broadcast through the system? I have 
some beauties. They’ll get complete cir- 
culation. You won’t have a satellite left 
to hide on.” 

“Publish and be blasted from here to 
Sirius !” 

"I was afraid that might be your at- 
titude,” said Johnny regretfully. “That 
leaves me one recourse. Indirect black- 
mail of Captain Vickers.” 

“What am I supposed to do?” demand 
ed the grim Captain. 

“You are supposed to persuade Mr 
Murchison to sign. If you do, you get 
your pictures. If you don’t — well, that 
will be unfortunate.” 

He could see the wheels going round 
in the Captain’s head. 

“Don’t get any ideas, Captain. I have 
you covered now by a couple of robots. 
Make a wrong move, and those pictures 
go out by automatic sender. But per- 
suade Murchison, and you get them 
back." 

“How am I going to persuade him?" 

“That, Captain, I leave up to you. How 
do you persuade a space-crook to con- 
fess?” 

An even grimmer than usual Vickers 
turned his face toward Murchison. He 
had his strength back now. “Come along, 
fellow. You and I have a few things to 
talk over.” 

“Wait a minute!” 

“Come along, I said." Vickers’ hand 
seized the fat man’s collar. 

“Let go of me — I’ll sign." The chins 
quivered, then firmed. “May every curse 



105 

in the system fall upon you, Johnny, for 
this ! May the plagues of Pluto get you !” 

“Forget the dramatic despair,” said 
Johnny. “Just sign. And by the way I 
want it understood — no reprisals.” 

“What?” exclaimed Vickers. 

“No reprisals,” insisted Johnny. “I 
want your word as an officer of the 
space patrol.” 

The thought of reprisals had evidently 
been not too far back in the Captain’s 
mind, and it was a heavy blow to give 
them up, but finally he promised. He was 
silent as he witnessed Murchison’s sig- 
nature. 

“As for Archie,” said Johnny, “I pity 
the poor idiot. I think a lecture from a 
judge should convince him that crime 
doesn't pay. Give him my old job, Mur- 
chison. And ship those aardvarks back 
to Venus. I’ve got them in a chilled 
room, but they’re budding anyway. If 
they increase too much, you’ll be held 
responsible.” 

“Never mind the free advice,” snarled 
Vickers. “Where are those photo- 
graphs ?” 

“I hadn’t realized you were so anxious 
to see them,” said Johnny. He waved an 
arm, and a cupboard slid open. Both 
men were in such a hurry that they got 
in each other's way, and each guarded 
his own photographs as if they were 
priceless secrets. “Beautiful, aren’t 
they?” observed Johnny, genial as ever. 

If Vickers had turned pale before, this 
time the colors of the rainbow chased 
each other across his face. Red, green, 
yellow, and purple were there in turn. 
Then a flame shot up, and consumed the 
photographs. Murchison was not far be- 
hind. In fact, he used the same ancient 
match. 

“Too bad,” said Johnny, dreaming of 
the space freighter that was to be his. 
He moved to the side of the room. “I'm 
disappointed in you two.” 

“Disappointed ?’’ repeated Murchison. 

“I was hoping you’d let me have a set 
to hang on the walls of my cabin in that 
freighter. Autographed !” he added hur- 
riedly, and ducked outside. 



NEXT ISSUE 

THE DANCING GIRL OF GANYMEDE 

A Novelet of Fantasy and Romance by LEIGH BRACKETT 





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i 



Two Men on a Damaged Spaee Ship With Only Enough 



106 





Air for One-an4 Somehow, a Choice Mnst be Made! 




Thirty Seconds- 
Thirty Days 



a novelet by ARTHUR C. CLARKE 

CHAPTER I 

Uniarf in other man aboard the ship. But when 

m opae* nothing happened and when McNeil 

G rant was writing up the Star neither spoke nor came into the room 
Queen' 8 log when he heard the the long silence finally roused Grant’s 
cabin door opening behind him. He curiosity and he swung the seat round 
didn’t bother to look around — it was in its gimbals. 

hardly necessary for there was only one McNeil was just standing in the door- 

107 



108 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



way, looking as if he had seen a ghost. 
The trite metaphor flashed into Grant’s 
mind instantly. He did not know for a 
moment how near the truth it was. In a 
sense McNeil had seen a ghost — the 
most terrifying of all ghosts — his own. 

“What’s the matter?” said Grant 
angrily. “You sick or something?” 

The engineer shook his head. Grant 
noticed the little beads of sweat that 
broke away from his forehead and went 
glittering across the room on their per- 
fectly straight trajectories. His throat 
muscles moved but for awhile no sound 
came. It looked as if he were going to 
cry. 

“We’re done for,” he whispered at 
last. “Oxygen reserve’s gone.” 

Then he did cry. He looked like a 
flabby doll, slowly collapsing on itself. 
He couldn’t fall for there was no grav- 
ity, so he just folded up in mid-air. 

Grant said nothing. Quite uncon- 
sciously he rammed his smouldering 
cigaret into the ash-tray, grinding it 
viciously until the last tiny spark had 
died. Already the air seemed to be 
thickening around him as the oldest 
terror of the spaceways gripped him by 
the throat. 

He- slowly loosed the elastic straps, 
which, while he was seated, gave some 
illusion of weight and with an automat- 
ic skill launched himself towards the 
doorway. McNeil did not offer to fol- 
low. Even making every allowance for 
the shock he had undergone Grant felt 
that he was behaving very badly. He 
gave the engineer an angry cuff as he 
passed and told him to snap out of it. 

The hold was a large hemispherical 
room with a thick central column which 
carried the controls and cabling to the 
other half of the dumbbell-shaped 
spaceship a hundred meters away. It 
was packed with crates and boxes ar- 
ranged in a surrealistic three-dimen- 
sional array that made very few con- 
cessions to gravity. 

But even if the cargo had suddenly 
vanished Grant would scarcely have 
noticed. He had eyes only for the big 
oxygen tank, taller than himself, which 
was bolted against the wall near the in- 
ner door of the airlock. 

It was just as he had last seen it, 
gleaming with aluminium paint, and 
the metal sides still held the faint touch 
of coldness that gave the only hint of 
their contents. All the piping seemed in 



perfect condition. There was no sign of 
anything wrong apart from one minor 
detail. The needle of the contents gauge 
lay mutely against the zero stop. 

Grant gazed at that silent symbol 
as a man in ancient London, returning 
home one evening at the time of the 
Plague might have stared at a rough 
cross newly scrawled upon his door 
Then he banged half a dozen times on 
the glass in the futile hope that the nee- 
dle had stuck — though he never really 
doubted its message. News that is suf- 
ficiently bad somehow carries its own 
guarantee of truth. Only good reports 
need confirmation. 

W HEN Grant got back to the con- 
trol room McNeil was himself 
again. A glance at the opened medicine 
chest showed the reason for the engi- 
neer’s rapid recovery. He even assayed 
a faint attempt at humor. 

“It was a meteor,” he said. “They tell 
us a ship this size should get hit once 
a century. We seemed to have jumped 
the gun with ninety-five years still to 
go.” 

“But what about the alarms? The 
air pressure’s normal — how could we 
have been holed?” 

“We weren’t,” McNeil replied. “You 
know how the oxygen circulates night- 
side through the refrigerating coils to 
keep it liquid? The meteor must have 
smashed them and the stuff simply 
boiled away.” 

Grant was silent, collecting his 
thoughts. What had happened was seri- 
ous — deadly serious — but it need not be 
fatal. After all the voyage was more 
than three-quarters over. 

“Surely the regenerator can keep the 
air breathable, even if it does get pretty 
thick?” he asked hopefully. 

McNeil shook his head. “I’ve not 
worked it out in detail, but I know the 
answer. When the carbon dioxide is 
broken down and the free oxygen gets 
cycled back there’s a loss of about ten 
percent. That’s why we have to carry a 
reserve,” 

‘The spacesuits!” cried Grant in sud 
den excitement. “What about their 
tanks ?” 

He had spoken without thinking and 
the immediate realization of his mis- 
take left him feeling worse than before. 

“We can’t keep oxygen in them — it 
would boil off in a few days. There’s 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 109 



enough compressed gas there for about 
thirty minutes — merely long enough for 
you to get to the main tank in an emer- 
gency.” 

“There must be a way out — even if 
we have to jettison cargo and run for 
it. Let’s stop guessing and work out ex- 
actly where we are.” 

Grant was as much angry as fright- 
ened. He was angry with McNeil for 
breaking down. He was angry with the 
designers of the ship for not having fore- 
seen this God-knew-how-many-million- 
to-one chance. The deadline might be a 
couple of weeks away and a lot could 
happen before then. The thought helped 
for a moment to keep his fears at arm’s 
length. 

This was an emergency beyond a 
doubt but it was one of those peculiarly 
protracted emergencies that seem to 
happen only in space. There was plenty 
of time to think — perhaps too much 
time. 

Grant strapped himself in the pilot’s 
seat and pulled out a writing pad. 

“Let’s get the facts right,” he said 
with artificial calmness. “We’ve got the 
air that’s still circulating in the ship 
and we lose ten percent of the oxygen 
every time it goes through the regener- 
ator. Chuck me over the Manual, will 
you? I can never remember how many 
cubic meters we use a day.” 

In saying that the Star Queen might 
expect to be hit by a meteor once every 
century McNeil had grossly but un- 
avoidably oversimplified the problem. 
For the answer depends on so many 
factors that three generations of statis- 
ticians had done little but lay down 
rules so vague that the insurance com- 
panies still shivered with apprehension 
when the great meteor showers went 
sweeping like a gale through the orbits 
of the inner worlds. 

Everything depends, of course, on 
what one means by the word meteor. 
Each lump of cosmic slag that reaches 
the surface of the Earth has a million 
smaller brethren who perish utterly in 
the no-man’s-land where the atmosphere 
has not quite ended and space has yet to 
begin — that ghostly region where the 
weird Aurora sometimes walks by night. 

These are the familiar shooting stars, 
seldom larger than a pin’s head, and 
these in turn are outnumbered a mil- 
lionfold again by particles too small to 
leave any visible trace of their dying 



as they drift down from the sky. All 
of them, the countless specks of dust, 
the rare boulders and even the wander- 
ing mountains that Earth encounters 
perhaps once every million years — 
all of them are meteors. 

F OR the purposes of space-flight, a 
meteor is only of interest if, on 
penetrating the hull of a ship, it leaves 
a hole large enough to be dangerous. 
This is a matter of relative speeds as 
well as size. Tables have been prepared 
showing approximate collision times 
for various parts of the Solar System — 
and for various sizes of meteors down 
to masses of a few milligrams. 

That which had struck the Star Queen 
was a giant, being nearly a centimeter 
across and weighing all of ten grams. 
According to the tables the waiting time 
for . collision with such a monster was 
of the order of ten to the ninth days — 
say three million years. The virtual cer- 
tainty that such an occurrence would not 
happen again in the course of human 
history gave Grant and McNeil very 
little consolation. 

However, things might have been 
worse. The Star Queen was 116 days on 
her orbit and had only 30 still to go. She 
was traveling, as did all freighters, on 
the long tangential ellipse kissing the 
orbits of Earth and Venus on opposite 
sides of the Sun. The fast liners could 
cut across from planet to planet at three 
times her speed — and ten times her fuel 
consumption — but she must plod along 
her predetermined track like a streetcar 
taking 145 days, more or less, for each 
journey. 

Anything more unlike the early- 
twentieth-century idea of a spaceship 
than the Star Queen would be hard to 
imagine. She consisted of two spheres, 
one fifty and the other twenty meters 
in diameter, joined by a cylinder about 
a hundred meters long. The whole struc- 
ture looked like a match-stick-and-plas- 
ticene model of a hydrogen atom. Crew, 
cargo and controls were in the larger 
sphere, while the smaller one held the 
atomic motors and was — to put it mild- 
ly — out of bounds to living matter. 

The Star Queen had been built in 
space and could never have lifted her- 
self even from the surface of the Moon. 
Under full power her iron drive could 
produce an acceleration of a twentieth 
of a gravity, which in an hour would 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



110 

give her all the velocity she needed to 
change for a satellite: of the Earth to 
one of Venus. 

Hauling cargo up from the planets 
was the job of the powerful little chem- 
ical rockets. In a month the tugs would 
be climbing up from Venus to meet her 
but the Star Queen would not be stop- 
ping for there would be no one at the 
controls. She would continue blindly on 
her orbit, speeding past Venus at miles 
a second — and five months later she 
would be back at the orbit of the Earth 
though Earth itself would then be far 
away. 



CHAPTER II 
Funeral Oration 



I T is surprising how long it takes to do 
a simple addition when your life de- 
pends on the answer. Grant ran down 
the short column of figures half a dozen 
times before he finally gave up hope that 
the total would change. Then he sat 
doodling nervously on the white plastic 
of the pilot’s desk. 

“With all possible economies,” he 
said, "we can last about twenty days. 
That means we’ll be ten days out of 
Venus when . . .” His voice trailed off 
into silence. 

Ten days didn’t sound like much — 
but it might just as well have been ten 
years. Grant thought sardonically of all 
the hack adventure writers who had 
used just this situation in their stories 
and radio serials. In these circum- 
stances, according to the carbon copy ex- 
perts — few of whom, had ever gone be- 
yond the Moon— there were three things 
that could happen. 

The popular solution — which had be- 
come almost a cliche — was to turn the 
ship into a glorified greenhouse or a 
hydroponic farm and let photosynthesis 
do the rest. Alternatively one could per- 
form prodigies of chemical or atomic 
engineering — e xplained in tedious 
technical detail — and build an oxygen 
manufacturing plant which would not 
only save your life — and of course the 
heroine’s — but would also make you 
the owner of fabuously valuable patents. 
The third or deus ex machina solution 
was the arrival of a convenient space- 



ship which happened to be matching 
your course and velocity exactly. 

But that was fiction and things were 
different in real life. Although the first 
idea was sound in theory there wasn’t 
even a packet of grass-seed aboard the 
Star Queen. As for feats of inventive 
engineering, two men — however bril- 
liant and however desperate — were not 
likely to improve in a few days on the 
work of scores of great industrial re- 
search organizations over a full century. 

The spaceship that "happened to be 
passing” was, almost by definition, im- 
possible. Even if other freighters had 
been coasting on the same elliptic path 
— and Grant knew there were none — 
then by the very laws that governed 
their movements they would always 
keep their original separations. It was 
not quite impossible that a liner, racing 
on its hyperbolic orbit, might pass with- 
in a few hundred thousand kilometers of 
them — but at a speed so great that it 
would be as inaccessible as Pluto. 

"If we threw out the cargo,” said Mc- 
Neil at last, “would we have a chance 
of changing our orbit?” 

Grant shook his head. 

“I’d hoped so,” he replied, “but it 
won’t work. We could reach Venus in a 
week if we wished — but we’d have no 
fuel for braking and nothing from the 
planet could catch us as we went past.” 
"Not even a liner?” 

“According to Lloyd’s Register Venus 
has only a couple of freighters at the 
moment. In any case it would be a prac- 
tically impossible maneuver. Even if it 
could match our speed how would the 
rescue ship get back? It would need 
about fifty kilometers a second for the 
whole job !” 

"If we can’t figure a way out,” said 
McNeil, "maybe someone on Venus can. 
We’d better talk to them.” 

“I’m going to,” Grant replied, "as 
soon as I’ve decided what to say. Go 
and get the transmitter aligned, will 
you ?” 

He watched McNeil as he floated out 
of the room. The engineer was probably 
going to give trouble in the days that 
lay ahead. Until now they had got on 
well enough — like most stout men, Mc- 
Neil was good-natured and easy-going. 
But now Grant realized that he lacked 
fibre. He had become too flabby — physi- 
cally and mentally — through living too 
long in space. 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 111 



A BUZZER sounded on the transmit- 
ter switchboard. The parabolic 
mirror out on the hull was aimed at the 
gleaming arc-lamp of Venus, only ten 
million kilometers away and moving on 
ar. almost parallel path. The three-mil- 
limeter waves from the ship’s transmit- 
ter would make the trip in little more 
than half a minute. There was bitterness 
in the knowledge that they were only 
thirty seconds from safety. 

The automatic monitor on Venus gave 
its impersonal Go ahead signal and 
Grant began to talk steadily, and he 
hoped, quite dispassionately. He gave 
a careful analysis of the situation and 
ended with a request for advice. His 
fears concerning McNeil he left unspo- 
ken. For one thing he knew that the en- 
gineer would be monitoring him at the 
transmitter. 

As yet no one on Venus would have 
heard the message, even though the 
transmission time-lag was over. It would 
still be coiled up in the recorder spools 
but in a few minutes an unsuspecting 
signal officer would arrive to play it 
over. 

He would have no idea of the bomb 
shell that was about to burst, triggering 
trains of sympathetic ripples on all the 
inhabited worlds as television and news- 
sheet took up the refrain. An accident 
in space has a dramatic quality that 
crowds all other items from the head- 
lines. 

Until now Grant had been too pre- 
occupied with his own safety to give 
much thought to the cargo in his charge. 
A sea-captain of ancient times, whose 
first thought was for his ship, might 
have been shocked by this attitude. 
Grant, however, had reason on his side. 

The Star Queen could never flounder, 
could never run upon uncharted rocks 
or pass silently, as so many ships have 
passed, forever from the knowledge of 
man. She was safe, whatever might be- 
fall her crew. If she was undisturbed 
she would continue to retrace her orbit 
with such precision that men might set 
their calendars by her for centuries to 
come. 

The cargo, Grant suddenly remem- 
bered, was insured for over twenty mil- 
lion dollars. There were not many goods 
valuable enough to be shipped from 
world to world and most of the crates 
in the hold were worth more than their 
weight — or rather their mass — in gold. 



Perhaps some items might be useful in 
this emergency and Grant went to the 
safe to find the loading schedule. 

He was sorting the thin tough sheets 
when McNeil came back into the cabin. 

“I’ve been reducing the air pressure,” 
he said. “The hull shows some leaks that 
wouldn’t have mattered in the usual 
way.” 

Grant nodded absently as he passed 
a bundle of sheets over to McNeil. 

“Here’s our loading schedule. I sug- 
gest we both run through it in case 
there’s anything in the cargo that may 
help.” 

If it did nothing else, he might have 
added, it would at least give them some- 
thing to occupy their minds. 

As he ran down the long columns of 
numbered items — a complete cross-sec- 
tion of interplanetary commerce — Grant 
found himself wondering what lay be- 
hind these inanimate symbols. “Item 
317 — 1 hook — U kilos gross. 

He whistled as he noticed that it was 
a starred item, insured for a hundred 
thousand dollars and he suddenly re- 
membered hearing on the radio that the 
Hesperian Museum had just bought a 
first edition “ Seven Pillars of Wisdom .” 

A few sheets later was a very con- 
trasting item, Miscellaneous books — 
25 kilos — no intrinsic value. 

It had cost a small fortune to ship 
those books to Venus, yet they were of 
“no intrinsic value.” Grant let his im- 
agination loose on the problem. Per- 
haps someone who was leaving Earth 
forever was taking with him to a new 
world hiB most cherished treasures — 
the dozen or so volumes that above all 
others had most shaped his mind. 

Item 56 U — 12 reels film. 

That, of course, would be the Neroni- 
an super-epic, While Rome Burns, 
which had left Earth just one jump 
ahead of the censor. Venus was waiting 
for it with considerable impatience. 

Medical supplies — 50 kilos. Case of 
cigars — 1 kilo. Precision instruments — 
75 kilos. So the list went on. Each item 
was something rare or something which 
the industry and science of a younger 
civilization could not yet produce. 

The cargo was sharply divided into 
two classes — blatant luxury or sheer 
necessity. There was little in between. 
And there was nothing, nothing at all, 
which gave Grant the slightest hope. He 
did not see how it could have been other- 




112 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



wise but that did not prevent him from 
feeling a quite unreasonable disappoint- 
ment. 

The reply from Venus, when it came 
at last, took nearly an hour to run 
through the recorder. It was a ques- 
tionnaire so detailed that Grant won- 
dered morosely if he’d live long enough 
to answer it. Most of the queries were 
technical ones concerning the ship. The 
experts on two planets were pooling 
their brains in the attempt to save the 
Star Queen and her cargo. 

"Well, what do you think of it?” Grant 
asked McNeil when the other had fin- 
ished running through the message. He 
was watching the engineer carefully for 
any further sign of strain. 

T HERE was a long pause before Mc- 
Neil spoke. Then he shrugged his 
shoulders and his first words were an 
echo of Grant’s own thoughts. 

"It will certainly keep us busy. I 
won’t be able to do all these tests in un- 
der a day. I can see what they’re driving 
at most of the time but some of the ques- 
tions are just crazy.” 

Grant had suspected that, but said 
nothing as the other continued. 

"Rate of hull leakage — that’s sensible 
enough, but why should anyone want 
to know the efficiency of our radiation 
screening? I think they’re trying to 
keep our morale up by pretending they 
have some bright ideas — or else they 
want to keep us too busy to worry.” 
Grant was relieved and yet annoyed 
by McNeil’s calmness — relieved because 
he had been afraid of another scene 
and annoyed because McNeil was not 
fitting at all neatly into the mental cate- 
gory he had prepared for him. Was that 
first momentary, lapse typical of the 
man or might it have happened to any- 
one? 

Grant, to whom the world was very 
much a place for blacks and whites, felt 
angry at being unable to decide wheth- 
er McNeil was cowardly or courageous. 
That he might be both was a possibility 
that never occured to him. 

There is a timelessness about space- 
flight that is unmatched by any other 
experience of man. Even on the Moon 
there are shadows that creep sluggishly 
from crag to crag as the sun makes his 
slow march across the sky. Earthside 
there is always the great clock of the 
spinning globe, marking the hours with 



continents for hands. But on a long voy- 
age in a gyro-stabilized ship the same 
patterns of sunlight lie unmoving on 
wall or floor as the chronometer ticks 
off its meaningless hours and days. 

Grant and McNeil had long since 
learned to regulate their lives accord 
ingly. In deep space they moved and 
thought with a leisureliness that would 
vanish quickly enough when a voyage 
was nearing its end and the time foi 
braking maneuvers had arrived. Though 
they were now under sentence of death, 
they continued along the well-worn 
grooves of habit. 

Every day Grant carefully wrote up 
the log, checked the ship’s position and 
carried out his various routine duties. 
McNeil was also behaving normally as 
far as could be told, though Grant sus- 
pected that some of the technical main- 
tenance was being carried out with a 
very light hand. 

It was now three days since the me- 
teor had struck. For the last twenty-four 
hours Earth and Venus had been in 
conference and Grant wondered when 
he would hear the result of their deliber- 
ations. He did not believe that even the 
finest technical brains in the Solar Sys- 
tem could save them now but it was 
hard to abandon hope when everything 
still seemed so normal and the air was 
still clean and fresh. 

On the fourth day Venus spoke again. 
Shorn of it technicalities, the message 
was nothing more or less than a funeral 
oration. Grant and McNeil had been 
written off but they were given elabor- 
ate instructions concerning the safety 
of the cargo. 

Back on Earth the astronomers were 
computing all the possible rescue orbits 
that might make contact with the Star 
Queen in the next few years. There was 
even a chance that she might be reached 
from Earth six or seven months later, 
when she was back at aphelion but the 
maneuver could only be carried out by 
a fast liner with no payload and would 
cost a fortune in fuel. 

M cNEIL vanished soon after this 
message came through. At first 
Grant was a little relieved. If McNeil 
chose to look after himself that was his 
own affair. Besides there were various 
letters to write — though the last-wifi- 
and-testament business could come later. 
It was McNeil’s turn to prepare the 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 113 



“evening” meal, a duty he enjoyed for he 
took good care of his stomach. When 
the usual sounds from the galley were 
not forthcoming Grant went in search 
of his crew. 

He found McNeil lying in his bunk, 
very much at peace with the universe. 
Hanging in the air beside him was a 
large metal crate which had been 
roughly forced open. Grant had no need 
to examine it closely to guess its con- 
tents. A glance at McNeil was enough. 

“It’s a dirty shame,” said the engineer 
without a trace of embarrassment, “to 
suck this stuff up through a tube. Can’t 
you put on some ‘g’ so that we can 
drink it properly?” 

Grant stared at him with angry con- 
tempt but McNeil returned his gaze 
unabashed. 

“Oh, don't be a sourpuss! Have some 
yourself — what does it matter now ?" 

He pushed across a bottle and Grant 
fielded it deftly as it floated by. It was 
a fabulously valuable wine — he remem- 
bered the consignment now — and the 
contents of that small crate must be 
worth thousands. 

“I don’t think there’s any need,” said 
Grant severely, “to behave like a pig — 
even in these circumstances.” 

McNeil wasn’t drunk yet. He had only 
reached the brightly-lit anteroom of in- 
toxication and had not lost all contact 
with the drab outer world. 

“I am prepared,” he said with great 
solemnity, “to listen to any good ar- 
gument against my present course of 
action — a course which seems eminently 
sensible to me. But you’d better convince 
me quickly while I'm still amenable to 
reason.” 

He pressed the plastic bulb again and 
a purple jet shot into his mouth. 

“Apart from the fact that you’re steal- 
ing Company property which will cer- 
tainly be salvaged sooner or later — you 
can hardly stay drunk for several 
weeks ^ 

“That,” said McNeil thoughtfully, “re- 
mains to be seen.” 

“I don’t think so,” retorted Grant. 
Bracing himself against the wall he 
gave the crate a vicious shove that sent 
it flying through the open doorway. 

As he dived after it and slammed the 
door he heard McNeil shout, “Well, of 
all the dirty tricks !” 

It would take the engineer some time — 
particularly in his present condition — 



to unbuckle himself and follow. Grant 
steered the crate back to the hold and 
locked the door. As there was never any 
need to lock the hold when the ship was 
in space McNeil wouldn’t have a key for 
it himself and Grant could hide the du- 
plicate that was kept in the control 
cabin. 

McNeil was singing when, some time 
later, Grant went back past his room, 
He still had a couple of bottles for com- 
pany and was shouting — 

“We don’t care where the oxygen goes 
“If it doesn't get into the wine . . .” 
Grant, whose education had been se- 
verely technical, couldn’t place the quo- 
tation. As he paused to listen he sudden- 
ly found himself shaken by an emotion 
which, to do him justice, he did not for 
a moment recognize. 

It passed as swiftly as it had come, 
leaving him sick and trembling. For the 
first time, he realized that his dislike of 
McNeil was slowly turning to hatred. 



CHAPTER III 
Tensions Building 



I T is a fundamental rule of space- 
flight that, for sound psychological 
reasons, the minimum crew on a long 
journey shall consist of not less than 
three men. But rules are made to be 
broken and the Star Queen’s owners 
had obtained full authority from the 
Board of Space Control and the insur- 
ance companies when the freighter set 
off for Venus without her regular cap- 
tain. 

At the last momen t he had been taken 
ill and there was no replacement. Since 
the planets are disinclined to wait upon 
man and his affairs, if she did not sail 
on time she would not sail at all. 

Millions of dollars were involved — 
so she sailed. Grant and McNeil were 
both highly capable men and they had no 
objection at all to earning double their 
normal pay for very little extra work. 
Despite fundamental differences in tem- 
perament, they got on well enough in or- 
dinary circumstances. It was nobody’s 
fault that circumstances were now very 
far from ordinary. 

Three days without food, it is said, 
is long enough to remove most of the 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



114 

subtle differences between a civilized 
man and a savage. Grant and McNeil 
were still in no physical discomfort. But 
their imaginations had been only too 
active and they now had more in com- 
mon with two hungry Pacific Islanders 
in a lost canoe than either would have 
cared to admit. 

For there was one aspect of the situ- 
ation, and that the most important, of 
all, which had never been mentioned. 
When the last figures on Grant’s writ- 
ing-pad had been checked and rechecked 
the calculation was still not quite com- 
plete. Instantly each man had made the 
one further step, each had arrived 
simultaneously at the same unspoken 
result. 

It was terribly simple — a macabre 
parody of those problems in first-year 
arithmetic that begin, “If six men take 
two days to assemble five helicopters, 
how long . . .” 

The oxygen would last two men for 
about twenty days and Venus was 
thirty days away. One did not have to 
be a calculating prodigy to see at once 
that one man and one man only might 
yet live to walk the metal streets of 
Port Hesperus. 

The acknowledged deadline was 
twenty days ahead but the unmentioned 
one was only ten days off. Until that 
time there would still be enough air for 
two men — and thereafter for one mart 
only for the rest of the voyage. To a 
sufficiently detached observer the situ- 
ation would have been very entertain- 
ing. 

It was obvious that the conspiracy of 
silence could not last much longer. But 
it is not easy, even at the best of times, 
for two people to decide amicably which 
one of them shall commit suicide. It is 
still more difficult when they are no 
longer on speaking terms. 

Grant wished to be perfectly fair. 
Therefore the only thing to do was to 
wait until McNeil sobered up and then 
to put the question to him frankly. He 
could think best at his desk, so he went 
to the control cabin and strapped him- 
self down in the pilot’s chair. 

For awhile he stared thoughtfully 
into nothingness. It would be better, he 
decided, to broach the matter by corre- 
spondence, especially while diplomatic 
relations were in their present state. 
He clipped a sheet of note-paper on 
the writing pad and began, “ Dear 



McNeil . . .” Then he tore it out and 
started again, “McNeil . . .” 

It took him the best part of three 
hours and even then he wasn’t wholly 
satisfied. There were some things it 
was so darned difficult to put down on 
paper. But at last he managed to finish. 
He sealed the letter and locked it away 
in his safe. It could wait for a day or 
two. 

F EW of the writing millions on Earth 
and Venus could have had any idea 
of the tensions that were slowly build- 
ing up aboard the Star Queen. For 
days press and radio had been full of 
fantastic rescue schemes. On three 
worlds there was hardly any other topic 
of conversation. But only the faintest 
echo of the ptanetwide tumult reached 
the two men who were its cause. 

At any time the station on Venus 
could speak to the Star Queen but there 
was so little that could be said. One 
could not with any decency give words 
of encouragement to men in the con- 
demned cell, even when there was some 
slight uncertainty about the actual date 
of execution. 

So Venus contented itself with a few 
routine messages every day and blocked 
the steady stream of exhortations and 
newspaper offers that came pouring in 
from Earth. As a result private radio 
companies on Earth made frantic at- 
tempts to contact the Star Queen di- 
rectly. They failed, simply because it 
never occurred to Grant and McNeil to 
focus their receiver anywhere except 
on Venus, now so tantalizingly near at 
hand. 

There had been an embarrassing in- 
terlude when McNeil emerged from his 
cabin but though relations were not 
particularly cordial, life aboard the 
Star Queen continued much as before. 

Grant spent most of his waking hours 
in the pilot’s position, calculating ap- 
proach maneuvers and writing inter- 
minable letters to his wife. He could 
have spoken to her had he wished but 
the thought of all those millions of 
waiting ears had prevented him from 
doing so. Interplanetary speech circuits 
were supposed to be private — but too 
many people would be interested in this 
one. 

In a couple of days, Grant assured 
himself, he would hand his letter to 
McNeil and they could decide what was 




THIRTY SECONDS 

to be done. Such a delay would also give 
McNeil a chance of raising the subject 
himself. That he might have other rea- 
sons for his hesitation was something 
Grant’s conscious mind still refused to 
admit. 

He often wondered how McNeil was 
spending his time. The engineer had a 
large library of microfilm books for he 
read widely and his range of interests 
was unusual. His favorite book. Grant 
knew, was Jurgen and perhaps even 
now he was trying to forget his doom 
by losing himself in its strange magic. 
Others of McNeil’s books were less re- 
spectable and not a few were of the 
class curiously described as curiosa. 

The truth of the matter was that Mc- 
Neil was far too subtle and complicated 
a personality for Grant to understand. 
He was a hedonist and enjoyed the 
pleasures of life all the more for being 
cut off from them for months at a time. 
But he was by no means the moral 
weakling that the unimaginative and 
somewhat puritanical Grant had sup- 
posed. 

It was true that he had collapsed 
completely under the initial shock and 
that his behaviour over the wine was — 
by Grant’s standards — reprehensible. 
But McNeil had had his breakdown and 
had recovered. Therein lay the differ- 
ence between him and the hard but 
brittle Grant. 

Though the normal routine of duties 
had been resumed by tacit consent it 
did little to reduce the sense of strain. 
Grant and McNeil avoided each other 
as far as possible except when mealtimes 
brought them together. When they did 
meet they behaved with an exaggerated 
politeness as if each were striving to 
be perfectly normal — and inexplicably 
failing. 

Grant had hoped that McNeil would 
himself broach the subject of suicide, 
thus sparing him a very awkward duty. 
When the engineer stubbornly refused 
to do anything of the sort it added to 
Grant’s resentment and contempt. To 
make matters worse he was now suffer- 
ing from nightmares and sleeping very 
badly. 

The nightmare was always the same. 
When he was a child it had often hap- 
pened that at bedtime he had been 
reading a story far too exciting to be 
left until morning. To avoid detection 
he had continued reading under the 



—THIRTY DAYS 115 

bedclothes by flashlight, curled up in a 
snug white-walled cocoon. Every ten 
minutes or so the air had become too 
stifling to breathe and his emergence 
into the delicious cool air had been a 
major part of the fun. 

Now, thirty years later, these inno- 
cent childhood hours returned to haunt 
him. He was dreaming that he could 
not escape from the suffocating sheets 
while the air was steadily and remorse- 
lessly thickening around him. 

He had intended to give McNeil the 
letter after two days, yet somehow he 
put it off ag;ain. This procrastination 
was very unlike Grant but he managed 
to persuade himself that it was a per- 
fectly reasonable thing to do. 

He was giving McNeil a chance to re- 
deem himself — to prove that he wasn’t 
a coward by raising the matter himself. 
That McNeil might be waiting for him 
to do exactly the same thing somehow 
never occurred to Grant. 

The all-too-literal deadline was only 
five days off when, for the first time, 
Grant’s mind brushed lightly against 
the thought of murder. He had been sit- 
ting after the “evening” meal, trying to 
relax as McNeil clattered around in the 
galley with, he considered, quite un- 
necessary noise. 

What use, he asked himself, was the 
engineer to the world? He had no re- 
sponsibilities and no family — no one 
would be any the worse off for his death. 
Grant, on the other hand, had a wife 
and three children of whom he was 
moderately fond, though for some ob- 
scure reason they responded with little 
more than dutiful affection. 

A NY impartial judge would have no 
difficulty in deciding which of 
them should survive. If McNeil had a 
spark of decency in him he would have 
come to the same conclusion already. 
Since he appeared tc have done nothing 
of the sort he had forfeited all further 
claims to consideration. 

Such was the elemental logic of! 
Grant’s subconscious mind, which' had' 
arived at its answer days before but had 
only now succeeded in attracting the at- 
tention for which it had been clamor- 
ing. To Grant’s credit he at once re- 
jected the thought with horror. 

He was an upright and honorable 
person with a very strict code of be- 
haviour. Even the vagrant homicidal 




116 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



impulse of what is misleadingly called 
“normal” man had seldom ruffled his 
mind. But in the days — the very few 
days — left to him, they would come 
more and more often. 

The air had now become noticeably 
fouler. Though there was still no real 
difficulty in breathing it was a constant 
reminder of what lay ahead and Grant 
found that it was keeping him from 
sleep. This was not pure loss, as it 
helped to break the power of his night- 
mares, but he was becoming physically 
run down. 

His nerve was also rapidly deterio- 
rating, a state of affairs accentuated by 
the fact that McNeil seemed to be be- 
having with unexpected and annoying 
calmness. Grant realized that he had 
come to the stage when it would be 
dangerous to delay the showdown any 
longer. 

McNeil was in his room as usual 
when Grant went up to the control 
cabin to collect the letter he had locked 
away in the safe — what semed a life- 
time ago. He wondered if he need add 
anything more to it. Then he realized 
that this was only another excuse for 
delay. Resolutely he made his way to- 
wards McNeil’s cabin. 

A single neutron begins the chain- 
reaction that in an instant can destroy 
a million lives and the toil of genera- 
tions. Equally insignificant and unim- 
portant are the trigger-events which 
can sometimes change a man’s course of 
action and so alter the whole pattern 
of his future. 

Nothing could have been more trivial 
than that which made Grant pause in 
the corridor outside McNeil’s room. In 
the ordinary way he would not even 
have noticed it. It was the smell of 
smoke — tobacco smoke. 

The thought that the sybaritic engi- 
neer had so little self-control that he 
was squandering the last precious liters 
of oxygen in such a manner filled Grant 
with blinding fury. lie stood for a mo- 
ment quite paralyzed with the intensity 
of his emotion. 

Then slowly, he crumbled the letter 
in his hand. The thought which had first 
been an unwelcomed intruder, then a 
casual speculation, was at last fully ac- 
cepted. McNeil had had his chance and 
had proved, by his unbelievable selfish- 
ness, unworthy of it. Very well — he 
could die. 



The speed with which Grant had 
arrived at this conclusion would not 
have deceived the most amateurish of 
psychologists. It was relief as much as 
hatred that drove him away from Mc- 
Neil’s room. He had wanted to convince 
himself that there would be no need to do 
the honorable thing, to suggest some 
game of chance that would give them 
each an equal probability of life. 

This was the excuse he needed and he 
had seized upon it to salve his con- 
science. For though he might plan and 
even carry out a murder Grant was the 
sort of person who would have to do it 
according to his own peculiar moral 
code. 

As it happened he was — not for the 
first time — badly misjudging McNeil. 
The engineer was a heavy smoker and 
tobacco was quite essential to his men- 
tal well-being even in normal circum- 
stances. How much more essential it 
was now Grant, who only smoked oc- 
casionally and without much enjoy- 
ment, could never have appreciated. 

McNeil had satisfied himself by care- 
ful calculation that four cigarettes a 
day would make no measurable differ- 
ence whatsoever to the ship’s oxygen 
endurance, whereas they would make 
all the difference in the world to his own 
nerves and hence indirectly to Grant’s. 

But it was no use explaining this to 
Grant. So he had smoked in private 
and with a self-control he found agree- 
ably, almost voluptuously, surprising. It 
was sheer bad luck that Grant had de- 
tected one of the day’s four cigarettes. 

For a man who had only at that 
moment talked himself into murder 
Grant’s actions were remarkably me- 
thodical. Without hesitation, he hurried 
back to the control room and opened the 
medicine chest with its neatly labeled 
compartments, designed for almost 
every emergency that could occur in 
space. 

Even the ultimate emergency had 
been considered, for there behind its 
retaining elastic bands was the tiny 
bottle he had been seeking, the image 
of which through all these days had 
been lying hidden far down in the un- 
known depths of his mind. It 'bore a 
white label carrying a skull-and-cross- 
bones, and beneath them the words — 
Approx, one-half gram will cause pain- 
less and almost instantaneous death. 

The poison was painless and instanta- 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 117 



neous — that was good. But even more 
important was a fact unmentioned on 
the label. It was also tasteless. 



CHAPTER IV 
The Stars Look Down 



1HE contrast between the meals 
prepared by Grant* and those or- 
ganized with considerable sltill and care 
by McNeil was striking. Anyone who 
was fond of food and who spent a good 
deal of his life in space usually learned 
the art of cooking in self-defense. Mc- 
Neil had done this long ago. 

To Grant on the other hand eating 
was one of those necessary but annoy- 
ing jobs which had to be got through 
as quickly as possible. His cooking re- 
flected this opinion. McNeil had ceased 
to grumble about it but he would have 
been very interested in the trouble 
Grant was taking over this particular 
meal. 

If he noticed any increasing nervous- 
ness on Grant’s part as the meal pro- 
gressed he said nothing. They ate al- 
most in silence but that was not unusual 
for they had long since exhausted most 
of the possibilities of light conversa- 
tion. When the last dishes — deep bowls 
with inturned rims to prevent the con- 
tents drifting out — had been cleared 
away Grant went into the galley to 
prepare the coffee. 

He took rather a long time for at 
the last moment something quite mad- 
dening and quite ridiculous happened. 
He suddenly recalled one of the film 
classics of the last century in which 
the fabulous Charlie Chaplin tried to 
poison an unwanted wife — and then 
accidentally changed the glasses. 

No memory could have been more 
unwelcome for it left him shaken with 
a gust of silent hysteria, Poe’s Imp of 
the Perverse, that demon who delights 
in defying the careful canons of self- 
preservation, was at work and it was 
a good minute before Grant could re- 
gain his self-control. 

He was sure that outwardly at least 
he was quite calm as he carried in the 
two plastic containers and their drink- 
ing tubes. There was no danger of con- 
fusing them for the engineer’s had the 



letters mac painted boldly across it. 

At the thought Grant nearly relapsed 
into those psychopathic giggles again 
but just managed to regain control 
with the somber reflection that his 
nerves must be in even worse condition 
than he had imagined. 

He watched, fascinated, though with- 
out appearing to do so, as McNeil toyed 
with his cup. The engineer seemed in 
no great hurry and was staring moodily 
into space. Then he put his lips to the 
drinking tube and sipped. 

A moment later he spluttered slightly 
— and an icy hand seemed to seize 
Grant’s heart and hold it tight. Then 
McNeil turned to him and said evenly, 
"You’ve made it properly for once. It’s 
quite hot.” 

Slowly, Grant’s heart resumed its in- 
terrupted work. He did not trust him- 
self to speak but managed a noncom- 
mittal nod. McNeil parked the cup care- 
fully in the air, a few inches away from 
his face. 

He seemed very thoughtful as if 
weighing his words for some important 
remark. Grant cursed himself for hav- 
ing made the drink so hot — that was 
just the sort of detail that hanged mur- 
derers. If McNeil waited much longer 
he would probably betray himself 
through nervousness. 

"I suppose,” said McNeil in a quietly 
conversational sort of way, "it has oc- 
curred to you that there’s still enough 
air to last one of us to Venus?” 

Grant forced his jangling nerves 
under control and tore his eyes away 
from that hypnotic cup. His throat 
seemed very dry as he answered, "IU— 
it had crossed my mind.” 

McNeil touched his cup, found it still 
too hot and continued thoughtfully, 
"Then wouldn’t it be more sensible if 
one of us decided to walk out of the 
airlock, say — or to take some of the 
poison in there?” He jerked his thumb 
towards the medicine chest, just visible 
from where they were sitting. 

Grant nodded. 

"The only trouble, of course,” added 
the engineer, "is to decide which of us 
will be the unlucky one. I suppose it 
would have to be by picking a card or 
in some other quite arbitrary way.” 

Grant stared at McNeil with a fasci- 
nation that almost outweighed his 
mounting nervousness. He had never 
believed that "the engineer could discuss 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



118 

the subject so calmly. Grant was sure 
he suspected nothing. Obviously Mc- 
Neil’s thoughts had been running on 
parallel lines to his own and it was 
scarcely even a coincidence that he had 
chosen this time, of all times, to raise 
the matter. 

McNeil was watching him intently as 
if judging his reactions. 

“You’re right,” Grant heard himself 
say. “We must talk it over.” 

“Yes,” said McNeil quite impassively. 
“We must.” Then he reached for his 
cup again, put the drinking tube to his 
lips and sucked slowly. 

Grant could not wait until he had fin- 
ished. To his surprise the relief he had 
been expecting did not come. He even 
felt a stab of regret, though it was not 
quite remorse. It was a little late to 
think of it now but he suddenly remem- 
bered that he would be alone in the 
Star Queen, haunted by his thoughts, 
for more than three weeks before rescue 
came. 

He did not wish to see McNeil die 
and he felt rather sick. Without another 
glance at his victim, he launched him- 
self towards the exit. 

I MMOVABLY fixed, the fierce sun aiid 
the unwinking stars looked down 
upon the Star Queen, which seemed as 
motionless as they. There was no way 
of telling that the tiny dumbbell of the 
ship had now almost reached her maxi- 
mum speed and that millions of horse- 
power were chained within the smaller 
sphere, waiting for the moment of its 
release. There was no way of telling, 
indeed, that she carried any life at all. 

An airlock on the night side of the 
ship slowly opened, letting a blaze of 
light escape from the interior. The 
brilliant circle looked very strange 
hanging there in the darkness. Then it 
was abruptly eclipsed as two figures 
floated out of the ship. 

One was much bulkier than the other 
and for a rather important reason — it 
was wearing a space-suit. Now there 
are some forms of apparel that may be 
worn or discarded as the fancy pleases 
with no other ill-effects than a possible 
loss of social prestige. But space-suits 
are not among them. 

Something not easy to follow was 
happening in the darkness. Then the 
smaller figure began to move, slowly at 
first but with rapidly mounting speed. 



It swept out of the shadow of the ship 
into the full blast of the sun and now 
one could see that strapped to its back 
was a small gas-cylinder from which a 
fine mist was jetting to vanish almost 
instantly into space. 

It was a crude but effective rocket. 
There was no danger that the ship’s 
minute gravitational pull would drag 
the body back to it again. 

Rotating slightly, the corpse dwindled 
against the stars and vanished from 
sight in less than a minute. Quite mo- 
tionless the figure in the airlock 
watched it go. Then the outer door 
swung shut, the circle of brilliance van- 
ished and only the pale Earthlight still 
glinted on the shadowed wall of the 
ship. 

Nothing else whatsoever happened 
for twenty-three days. 

The captain of the Hercules turned 
to his mate with a sigh of relief. 

“I was afraid he couldn’t do it. It 
must have been a colossal job to break 
his orbit single-handed — and with the 
air as thick as it must be by now. How 
soon can we get to him?” 

“It will take about an hour. He’s still 
got quite a bit of eccentricity but we 
can correct that.” 

“Good. Signal the Leviathan and 
Titan that we can make contact and 
ask them to take off, will you? But I 
wouldn’t drop any tips to your news 
commentator friends until we’re safely 
locked.” 

The mate had the grace to blush. “I 
don’t intend to,” he said in a slightly 
hurt voice as he pecked delicately at 
the keys of his calculator. The answer 
that flashed instantly on the screen 
seemed to displease him. 

“We’d better board and bring the 
Queen down to circular speed ourselves 
before we call the other tugs,” he said, 
“otherwise we’ll all be wasting a lot of 
fuel. She’s still got a velocity excess of 
nearly a kilometer a second.” 

“Good idea — tell Leviathan and Titan 
to stand by but not to blast until we 
give them the new orbit." 

While the message was on its way 
down through the unbroken cloudbanks 
that covered half the sky below the 
mate remarked thoughtfully “I wonder 
what he’s feeling like now?” 

“I can tell you. He’s so pleased to be 
alive that he doesn’t give a hoot about 
anything else.” 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 



“Still I’m not sure I’d like to have 
left my shipmate in space so that I 
could get home.’’ 

“It’s not the sort of thing that any- 
one would like to do. But you heard the 
broadcast — they’d talked it over calmly 
and the loser went out the airlock. It 
was the only sensible way.” 

“Sensible, perhaps — but it’s pretty 
horrible to let someone else sacrifice 
himself in such a cold-blooded way so 
that you can live.” 

“Don’t be a ruddy sentimentalist. I’ll 
bet that if it happened to us you’d push 
me out before I could even say my 
prayers.” 

“Unless you did it to me first. Still, 
I don’t think it’s ever likely to happen 
to the Hercules. Five days out of port’s 
the longest we’ve ever been, isn’t it? 
Talk about the romance of the space- 
ways !” 

The captain didn’t reply. He was 
peering into the eyepiece of the navi- 
gating telescope, for the Star Queen 
should now be within optical range. 
There was a long pause while he ad- 
justed the vernier controls. Then he 
gave a little sigh of satisfaction. 

“There she is — about nine-fifty kilo- 
meters away. Tell the crew to stand 
by — and send a message to cheer him 
up. Say we’ll be there in thirty minutes 
even if it isn’t quite true.” 

S LOWLY the thousand-meter nylon 
ropes yielded beneath the strain as 
they absorbed the relative momentum 
of the ships, then slackened again as 
the Star Queen and the Hercules re- 
bounded toward each other. The electric 
winches began to turn and, like a spider 
crawling up its thread, the Hercules 
drew alongside the freighter. 

Men in spacesuits sweated with 
heavy reaction units — tricky work, this 
— until the airlocks had registered and 
could be coupled together. The outer 
doors slid aside and the air in the locks 
mingled, fresh with foul. As the mate 
of the Hercules waited, oxygen cylinder 
in hand, he wondered what condition 
the survivor would be in. Then the Star 
Queen’s inner door slid open. 

For a moment, the two men stood 
looking at each other across the short 
corridor that now connected the two 
airlocks. The mate was surprised and a 
little disappointed to find that he felt 
bo particular sense of drama. 



119 

So much had happened to make this 
moment possible that its actual achieve- 
ment was almost an anticlimax, even 
in the instant when it was slipping 
into the past. He wished — for he was 
an incurable romantic — that he could 
think of something memorable to say, 
some “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” 
phrase that would pass into history. 

But all he actually said was, “Welt, 
McNeil, I’m pleased to see you.” 

Though he was considerably thinner 
and somewhat haggard McNeil had 
stood the ordeal well. He breathed 
gratefully the blast of raw oxygen and 
rejected the idea that he might like to 
lie down and sleep. As he explained 
he had done very little but sleep for 
the past week to conserve air. The first 
mate looked relieved. He had been 
afraid he might have to wait for the 
story. 

The cargo was being transshipped 
and the other two tugs were climbing 
up from the great blinding crescent of 
Venus while McNeil retraced the events 
of the last few weeks and the mate 
made surreptitious notes. 

He spoke quite calmly and imperson- 
ally, as if he were relating some ad- 
venture that had happened to another 
person, or indeed had never happened 
at all. Which was, of course, to some 
extent the case, though it would be un- 
fair to suggest that McNeil was telling 
any lies. 

He invented nothing but he omitted 
a good deal. He had had three weeks in 
which to prepare his narrative and he 
did not think it had any flaws. 



CHAPTER V 
In the Cards 



RANT had already reached the 
door when McNeil called softly 
after him, “What’s the hurry ? I thought 
we had something to discuss.” 

Grant grabbed at the doorway to halt 
his headlong flight. He turned slowly 
and stared unbelievingly at the engi- 
neer. McNeil should be already dead — 
but he was sitting quite comfortably, 
looking at him with a most peculiar ex- 
pression. 

“Sit down,” he said sharply — and in 





THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



120 

that moment it suddently seemed that 
all authority had passed to him. Grant 
did so, quite without volition. Something 
had gone wrong, though what it was 
he could not imagine. 

The silence in the control room seemed 
to last for ages. Then McNeil said rath- 
er sadly, “I'd hoped better of you, 
Grant.” 

At last Grant found his voice though 
he could barely recognize it. 

“What do you mean?” he whispered. 

“What do you think I mean?” replied 
McNeil, with what seemed no more than 
mild irritation. “This little attempt of 
yours to poison me, of course.” 

Grant’s tottering world collapsed at 
last but he no longer cared greatly one 
way or the other. McNeil began to ex- 
amine his beautifully-kept finger nails 
with some attention. 

“As a matter of interest,” he said in 
the way that one might ask the time, 
“when did you decide to kill me?” 

The sense of unreality was so over- 
whelming that Grant felt he was acting 
apart, that this had nothing to do with 
real life at all. 

“Only this morning,” he said and be- 
lieved it. 

“Hmm,” remarker McNeil, obviously 
without much conviction. He rose to his 
feet and moved over to the medicine 
chest. Grant’s eyes followed him as he 
fumbled in the compartment and came 
back with the little poison bottle. It 
still appeared to be full. Grant had been 
careful about that. 

“I suppose I should get pretty mad 
about this whole business,” McNeil con- 
tinued conversationally, holding the bot- 
tle between thumb and forefinger. “But 
somehow I’m not. Maybe it’s because I 
never had many illusions about human 
nature. And, of course, I saw it coming 
a long time ago.” 

Only the last phrase really reached 
Grant’s consciousness. 

“You — saw it coming?” 

“Heavens, yes! You’re too transpar- 
ent to make a good criminal, I’m afraid. 
And now that your little plot’s failed it 
leaves us both in an embarrassing posi- 
tion, doesn’t it?” 

To this masterly understatement 
there seemed no possible reply. 

“By rights,” continued the engineer 
thoughtfully, “I should now work myself 
into a good temper, call Venus Central, 
and denounce you to the authorities. 



But it would be a rather pointless thing 
to do and I’ve never been much good at 
losing my temper anyway. Of course, 
you’ll say that’s because I'm too lazy — 
but I don’t think so.” 

He gave Grant a twisted smile. 

“Oh, I know what you think about 
me — you’ve got me neatly classified in 
that orderly mind of yours, haven’t you? 
I’m soft and self-indulgent, I haven’t 
any moral courage — or any morals for 
that matter — and I don’t give a damm 
for anyone but myself. Well, I’m not 
denying it. Maybe it's ninety percent 
true. But the odd ten percent is mighty 
important, Grant!” 

Grant felt in no condition to indulge 
in psychological analysis and this 
seemed hardly the time for anything of 
the sort. Besides he was still obsessed 
with the problem of his failure and the 
mystery of McNeil’s continued exist- 
ence. McNeil, who knew this perfectly 
well, seemed in no hurry to satisfy his 
curiosity. 

“Well, what do you intend to do 
now?” Grant asked, anxious to get it 
over. 

“I would like,” said McNeil calmly, 
“to carry on our discussion where it was 
interrupted by the coffee.” 

“You don’t mean — ” 

“But I do. Just as if nothing hap- 
pened.” 

“That doesn’t make sense. You’ve 
got something up your sleeve!” cried 
Grant. 

McNeil sighed. He put down the 
poison bottle and looked firmly at Grant. 

“You're in no position to accuse me 
of plotting anything. To repeat my 
earlier remarks, I am suggesting that 
we decide which one of us shall take 
poison — only we don’t want any more 
unilateral decisions. Also” — he picked 
up the bottle again — “it will be the real 
thing this time. The stuff in here mere- 
ly leaves a bad taste in the mouth.” 

A LIGHT was beginning to dawn in 
Grant’s mind. “You changed the 
poison !” 

“Naturally. You may think you’re a 
good actor, Grant, but frankly — from 
the stalls — I thought the performance 
stank. I could tell you were plotting 
something, probably before you knew it 
yourself. In the last few days I’ve de- 
loused the ship pretty thoroughly. 
Thinking of all the ways you might 




THIRTY SECONDS— THIRTY DAYS 



have done me in was quite amusing 
and helped to pass the time. The poison 
was so obvious that it was the first thing 
I fixed. But I rather overdid the danger 
signals and nearly gave myself away 
when I took the first sip. Alum doesn’t 
go at all well with coffee.” 

He gave that wry grin again. "Also, 
I'd hoped for something more subtle. 
So far I’ve found fifteen infallible ways 
of murdering anyone aboard a space- 
ship. But I don’t propose to describe 
them now.” 

This was fantastic, Grant thought. 
He was being treated not like a criminal 
but like a rather stupid schoolboy who 
hadn’t done his homework properly. 

"Yet you’re still willing,” said Grant 
unbelievingly, "to start all over again? 
And you’d take the poison yourself if 
you lost?” 

McNeil was silent for a long time. 
Then he began, slowly, "I can see that 
you still don’t believe me. It doesn’t fit 
at all nicely into your tidy little picture, 
does it? But perhaps I can make you 
understand. It’s really quite simple. 

"I’ve enjoyed life, Grant, without 
many scruples or regrets — but the bet- 
ter part of it’s over now and I don’t cling 
to what’s left as desperately as you 
might imagine. Yet while I am alive 
I’m rather particular about some 
things. 

It may surprise you to know that 
I've got any ideals at all. But I have, 
Grant — I’ve always tried to act like a 
civilized rational being. I’ve not always 
succeeded. When I’ve failed I’ve tried to 
redeem myself.” 

He paused and when he resumed it 
was as though he and not Grant was on 
the defensive. "I’ve never exactly liked 
you, Grant but I’ve often admired you 
and that’s why I’m sorry it’s come to 
this. I admired you most of all the day 
the ship was holed.” 

For the first time, McNeil seemed to 
have some difficulty in choosing his 
words. When he spoke again he avoid- 
ed Grant’s eyes. 

"I didn’t behave too well then. Some- 
thing happened that I thought was im- 
possible. I’ve always been quite sure 
that I’d never lose my nerve but — well 
— it was so sudden it knocked me over.” 

He attempted to hide his embarrass- 
ment by humor. "The same sort of 
thing happened on my very first trip. 
I was sure I’d never be spacesick — and 



121 

as a result I was much worse than if I 
had not been overconfident. -But I got 
over it and again this time. It was one 
of the biggest surprises of my life. 
Grant, when I saw that you of all peo- 
ple were beginning to crack. 

"Oh yes — the business of the wines! 
I can see you’re thinking about that. 
Well, that’s one thing I don’t regret. I 
said I’d always tried to act like a civi- 
lized man — and a civilized man should 
always know when to get drunk, But 
perhaps you wouldn’t understand.” 

Oddly enough that was. just what 
Grant was beginning to do. He had 
caught his first real glimpse of McNeil’s 
intricate and tortuous personality and 
realized how utterly he had misjudged 
him. No — misjudged was not the right 
word. In many ways his judgment had 
been correct. But it had only touched 
the surface — he had never suspected the 
depths that lay beneath. 

In a moment of insight that had never 
come before and from the nature of 
things could never come again, Grant 
understood the reasons behind McNeil’s 
action. This was nothing so simple as 
a coward trying to reinstate himself in 
the eyes of the world for no one need 
ever know what happened aboard the 
Star Queen. 

In any case McNeil probably cared 
nothing for the world’s opinion, thanks 
to the sleek self-sufficienep that had so 
often annoyed Grant. But that very self- 
sufficiency meant that at all costs he 
must preserve his own good opinion of 
himself. Without it life would not be 
worth living — and McNeil had never 
accepted life save on his own terms. 

T HE ENGINEER was watching 
him intently and must have 
guessed that Grant was coming near 
the truth, for he suddenly changed his 
tone as though he was sorry he had re- 
vealed so much of his character. 

"Don’t think I get a quixotic pleasure 
from turning the other cheek,” he said. 
"Just consider it from the point of view 
of pure logic. After all we’ve got to 
come to some agreement. 

"Has it occurred to you that if only 
one of us survives without a covering 
message from the other he’ll have a very 
uncomfortable time explaining just 
what happened ?” 

In his blind fury Grant had complete- 
ly forgotten this. But he did not believe 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



122 

it bulked at all important in McNeil’s 
own thoughts. 

“Yes,” he said, “I suppose you’re 
right.” 

He felt far better now. All the hate 
had drained out of him and he was at 
peace. The truth was known and he had 
accepted it. That it was so different 
from what he had imagined did not 
seem to matter now. 

“Well, let’s get it over,” he said un- 
emotionally. “There’s a new pack of 
cards lying around somewhere.” 

“I think we’d better speak to Venus 
first — both of us,” replied McNeil, with 
peculiar emphasis. “We want a com- 
plete agreement on record in case any- 
one asks awkward questions later.” 
Grant nodded absently. He did not 
mind very much now one way or the 
other. He even smiled, ten minutes later, 
as he drew his card from the pack and 
laid it, face, upwards, besides McNeil’s. 

★ * + J|: * 

“So that’s the whole story, is it?” 
said the first mate, wondering how soon 
he could decently get to the transmitter. 

“Yes,” said McNeil evenly, “that’s 
all there was to it.” 

The mate bit his pencil, trying to 
frame the next question. “And I sup- 
pose Grant took it all quite calmly?” 
The captain gave him a glare, which 
he avoided, and McNeil looked at him 
coldly as if he could see through to the 
sensation-mongering tabloids ranged 
behind. He got to his feet and moved 
over to the observation port. 

“You heard his broadcast, didn’t you? 
Wasn’t that calm enough?” 

The mate sighed. It still seemed hard 
to believe that in such circumstances 
two men could have behaved in so rea- 
sonable, so unemotional a manner. He 



could have pictured all sorts of dra- 
matic possibilities — sudden outbursts of 
insanity, even attempts at murder. Yet 
according to McNeil nothing at all hap- 
pened. It was too bad. 

McNeil was speaking again, as if to 
himself. “Yes, Grant behaved very well 
— very well indeed. It was a great 
pity—” 

Then he seemed to lose himself in the 
ever-fresh incomparable glory of the 
approaching planet. Not far beneath and 
coming closer by kilometers every sec- 
ond, the snow-white crescent arms of 
Venus spanned more than half the sky. 
Down there were life and warmth and 
civilization — and air. 

The future, which not long ago had 
seemed contracted to a point, had 
opened out again into all its unknown 
possibilities and wonders. But behind 
him McNeil could sense the eyes of his 
rescuers, probing, questioning — yes, and 
condemning too. 

A LL his life he would hear whispers. 

Voices would be saying behind his 
back, “Isn’t that the man who — ?” 

He did not care. For once in his life 
at least he had done something of which 
he could feel unashamed. Perhaps one 
day his own pitiless self-analysis would 
strip bare the motives behind his ac- 
tions, would whisper in his ear, “Al- 
truism? Don’t be a fool! You did it to 
bolster up your own good opinion of 
yourself — so much more important 
than ayone else’s!” 

But the perverse maddening voices, 
which all his life had made nothing seem 
worthwhile, were silent for the moment 
and he felt content. He had reached the 
calm at the center of the hurricane. 
While it lasted he would enjoy it to the 
full. 



AN INTERGALACTIC CONFIDENCE MAN 
PROMOTES AN ELIXIR OF YOUTH 

in 

THE VOICE OF THE LOBSTER 

By HENRY KUTTNER 

ONE OF NEXT ISSUE'S FEATURED NOVELETS! 







Thicker than Water 

By CLEVE CARTMILL 

Jake Murchison of Space Salvage, Inc., forgets legalities 
in a desperate battle against disaster on an Arcton lake/ 

I DIDN’T need to see the deputy’s star, cloud-filtered sunlight on the edge of this I 
I knew he had one by the set of his ten-mile lake of ooze. Slime would de- 1 
shoulders, his swagger, his insolent def- scribe it better. It had a body odor. And | 
crence. the humidity 1 

“You can see for yourself, Mr. Murch- I was dressed in as little as the law I 
■son,” he said. “It’s an injunction for- allowed, and sweat ran from my hair-i 
kidding Space Salvage, Inc., to perform line into my eyes, from my armpits down I 
any operations on Arcton until the her- my sides, along the insides of my thighs | 
cnlium matter is adjudicated.” into my shoes. 

I looked at the paper. We stood in "Fine thing,” I said, skimming! 

128 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



124 

through the legal phrases. “Prentice 
McNamy, who is aboard that shuttle 
ship one hundred feet deep out there in 
the middle of this lake, forbids us to 
rescue him. And we were told all per- 
sonnel would be off the ship when we got 
here." 

The deputy glanced at the worried 
little man beside him. “Mr. Caar tried," 
he said, “but he couldn’t force the es- 
cape tube down to the shuttle ship.” 

“It’s impossible,” Mr. Caar squeaked. 

"Shut up,” I said, and he turned a 
little green — about the shade of the ten- 
foot leaves of the babababa tree we stood 
under. “I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I’m a 
little jumpy. That ship out there with 
ninety-seven people aboard, is running 
out of air. Every minute we stand here 
doing nothing brings them nearer to suf- 
focation. I can get ’em out, if we’re al- 
lowed to operate. Here come my people 
now.” 

A big truck came chugging toward us, 
its tractor treads breaking down the 
weird yellow vegetation. Carroll was at 
the wheel, with Cap Lane beside him. 
They rumbled up to us. Carroll unfolded 
his seven-foot height out of the cab, took 
one look at me and came catlike to us. 

“Trouble, Jake?" he asked in his in- 
credibly gentle voice. 

I waited for Cap., mopping his calm 
face, wiping sweat from his blue eyes 
and white hair, to join us. I explained 
the situation. 

“The heck with ’em, then,” I conclud- 
ed. “Let 'em die.” 

“No, Jake,” Cap said calmly. “We 
can’t do that. Those are people out 
there. We've got to establish communica- 
tion.” 

“Fat chance,” I snorted. 

“We can do it,” Carroll murmured. 

W E ALL looked up at him. One of 
the sauria birds flew over us as 
we looked up, and I followed it with my 
eyes. It suddenly skimmed close to the 
surface of the lake of slime, scooped up 
one of the nine-foot surface insects in its 
alligator jaws and carried the thing, 
kicking it furred legs, out of sight. 

“Oscillators,” Carroll said. “We know 
where the ship is” — he nodded at a 
flagged buoy in the center of the lake — 
“and we can rig up an oscillator that 
will sound Interstellar code against the 
hull. Get this guy McNamy’s consent to 
go ahead, and start.” 



The deputy looked dubious. “Well,’* 
he said finally, “I guess there’s no harm 
in that.” 

I ran over to the truck. The native 
crew sat here and there on machinery 
and lumber. I checked the equipment, 
sweating harder than ever after my run. 

Compressors, hose, winches, lumber. 
But no steel rod. That’s what I wanted. 
If we had the equipment, we could rig 
an oscillator, but it would mean a trip 
back to Arcton City to get it. Those 
bells — half globes of rolled ferrulium — 
might be — 

It hit me like a blow. That flagged 
buoy was attached to the shuttle ship 
by a steel cable. We could use that. 

“Where can we get a flat boat?” I 
yelled at the deputy. 

He scratched his head. “Fellow down 
the lake about a mile has one, I think. 
Kind of expensive, though.” 

"Go get him,” I said to Carroll. “Get 
his boat here, if you have to steal it.” 

He set off at a lope along the stinking 
shore. I turned to the boss of the labor 
gang, distinguished by a foreman’s 
badge and a square chin. 

“Build a raft,” I ordered. “Forty feet 
by thirty. See those sections of tubing 
down there on the dock? Cut a hole in 
the middle of the raft about two feet 
bigger in diameter than the tubing. 
Then — ” 

I gave him directions and started 
dpwn to the dock where Mr. Caar’s use- 
loss equipment was stacked. Over my 
left shoulder I caught the sound of an 
approaching vehicle, saw it emerging 
from the tall grasslike growth. I waited. 

Captain Helen Wall emerged from it. 
Daughter of the president of Solar Sys- 
tem Salvage Co., Ltd. A great truth 
burst in my mind. Solar had tied up our 
salvage cargo of herculium last month, 
circulated rumors that we were pirates, 
and was at this moment — as we were — 
trying to find the secret laboratory 
where Professor Phamign, inventor of 
the founding process for the most im- 
pervious alloy in history, had left his 
notes. 

Solar was throwing monkey wrenches 
at us. It had to be that. This guy Mc- 
Namy wouldn’t have filed an injunction 
on his own. He wouldn’t have known. 
But if Solar was behind it — and they 
must be — they could tie us up here while 
they went on with their search. 

I watched Helen as she came toward 




THICKER THAN WATER 



me. Her space-captain's uniform, with 
its twin comets, concealed little of her 
exciting figure, A master dressmaker 
had designed that outfit, Her hair 
flamed red in the subdued light, her eyes 
were a friendly green, and her lush 
mouth was parted in a grin. 

“Hello, Jake,” she said. 

My face must have reflected what I 
felt, for she frowned at my, “How do 
you do. Captain?” 

“What’s the matter? I came to offer 
iny services. It’s the least I could do aft- 
er you rescued the Andromeda and all 
my people from that lodestone.” 

“Thanks,” I said, and turned away. 
“I’m busy.” 

It wasn’t easy, especially as she stood 
there like a kitten looking at an ice box, 
but she was with Solar. Don’t fraternize 
with the enemy. That’s what it says in 
my book, anyway. I wanted to go back 
to her. I wanted to see if that hair was 
as soft as it looked. I wanted to — 

“Move, feet!” I said savagely to my- 
self as I came to a halt. I went on. 

C AP was looking over the sections of 
escape tubing, the lower section 
being fitted with a sealing device. He 
looked up as I stood beside him, and I 
noticed his twin comets needed polish- 
ing. 

“If we can get it down,” he said, "it 
ought to work.” 

“We’ll get it down,” I snarled. 
“What’s eating you?” he asked calm- 
ly. His deep blue eyes swung shoreward, 
fixed on Helen. “Oh,” he said. 

"Yes, oh! You see it all, don’t you? 
You’re an older man, you can give me 
good advice. Well, save it! I’ve had 
enough of bar-stool philosophy in my 
day. We’ve got a job to do!” 

“Sure, Jake, sure,” Cap Lane said 
calmly. “Here comes Carroll.” 

The flat boat skimmed toward us on 
the film of oil it laid down ahead of it, 
the big stern fan humming softly. The 
pilot, a skinny-faced individual with a 
bulbous nose, slid along beside the dock, 
an inch at a time and I stepped aboard. 
"Got a hammer?” I asked. 

He nodded at a locker, and I ordered 
him out to the buoy. “Name’s Harry,” 
he said, and headed for one of those 
giant spider-like insects. 

This skidded off to one side, and 
watched us with its two dozen eyes 
with an expression of multiple astonish- 



125 

ment as we passed, Its antennae ques- 
tioned the air in interrogatory hues of 
orange and purple. Its mandibles clashed 
in agitation. 

“Good eatin’,” Harry said, “stuffed 
with babababa berries.” 

I shuddered, but said nothing. 

Carroll had sort of folded his seven- 
foot length in the stern sheets. "Why the 
hammer?” he asked softly. 

I explained about the steel cable, and 
he grinned. “Old Spit-and-String Jake,” 
he said. 

“That’s a high compliment, coming 
from you,” I said. I told him my scheme 
about the raft. “You’ll have to install 
those bells, Carroll. It'll be tough, in 
this muck.” 

He shrugged. "What’s a mudder for? 
That’s how I got these shoulders.” 

We reached the buoy. “Can’t stop,” 
Harry said. “Gotta keep movin’ or we’ll 
sink. Whatcha want to do?” 

“But we have to stop,” I said. 

"Can’t.” He wasn’t dogged, he was 
just stating fact. “That oil spray on the 
bow gives us a slick film to move on. If 
we stop, we sink. I c’n move slow, 
though, and I got plenty oil.” 

“Can you put us in a tight circle 
around the buoy, so we can hang on to 
CflblG 

“Might,” he said. “Try, anyway.” 
You wouldn’t think that eighteen-foot 
flatboat could have made such a tight 
circle. I don’t know how he managed 
it, but we sort of skidded round and 
round, and it was easy to hang on to the 
cable. 

“You’d better go overboard,” I told 
Carroll. “Hang on the boat with one 
hand, and put your ear against the cable 
for their reply. They can bang the cable 
where it joins the winch for signaling 
us. Pull it as taut as you can and I’ll 
whang it with the hammer.” 

I tapped out a call, over and over 
about six times before Carroll said, 
“Okay, they hear you.” 

He held his ear to the cable at the 
surface while he was being pulled round 
and round the buoy. “They say go 
ahead.” 

I tapped out the story of the injunc- 
tion, and our situation. Considerable 
time passed before a reply came. 

“McNamy,” it said, “barely conscious. 
Say for gosh sake yes, anything. Our 
condition desperate. Six hours maxi- 
mum before deaths begin. Hurry! 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



126 

Signed, Captain Ezra Cole.” 

I whanged out a reassuring “Hang 
on,” and helped Carroll into the boat. 
He was a mess, dripping that foul-smell- 
ing slime all over everything as he and 
I tried to scrape him clean. 

“Sorry about your boat,’* I said to 
Harry as he made full-speed for the 
dock. 

He shrugged and plowed through a 
group of the giant spiders. “People down 
there/’ he said. “Boats are cheap.” 

He zoomed into a mooring cradle at 
the dock; we lashed the boat and jumped 
out I ran over to where the labor gang 
was putting final touches on the raft, 
and I saw trouble waiting for me. It 
had blazing red hair, sparking green 
eyes and was named Captain Helen 
Wall. She, Mr. Caar, and the deputy 
were in a tense group waiting for me. 

I JUMPED on to the raft, called the 
foreman. “I want the air compres- 
sors here, here, and here,” I said, mark- 
ing rough outlines with chalk. “Cut that 
hole about here. We want holes in the 
four comers, two more here and here, 
for the bushings to hold these bells. 

“Carroll!" I called, and he joined me, 
'Smelling like last year’s fish. “We better 
make skids for these bells, so we can at- 
tach everything ashore. We can’t come 
to a dead stop on that slime to complete 
the job. There’s a stack of sheet meta- 
plast on the truck. You fix. Cut a hole 
in each skid about the size of the bell 
opening and fasten like you never fas- 
tened anything. 

“Cap !” I yelled, and he came thought- 
folly away from La Wall’s group. “You 
can cut the hole in the center of the raft, 
about six feet in diameter. I’ll check 
the compressors now. Fast as you can, 
men! We don’t have much time." 

I jumped off the raft and trotted 
toward the truck. 

“Mr. Murchison!" the deputy called. 
“Some other time,” I said. “I’m busy.” 
“You’d better know about this,” he 
said grimly. 

I joined the group. Helen’s eyes still 
sparked, and her mouth was compressed 
into a line. Mr. Caar looked like a diffi- 
dent rodent facing an attacker, scared 
but determined to stand his ground as 
long as possible. 

“Now what?” I asked. 

“You’ve got to stop this idiocy at 
once,” Helen said. 



My mouth must have dropped open. 
After a couple of seconds of shock, I 
remembered to shut it and swallow. 

“Now what?” I said. “More monkey 
wrenches ?” 

“Mr. Caar,” she said firmly, “knows 
more about that situation than you do. 
It’s obvious what you’re up to. You in- 
tend to anchor over that buoy and force 
the escape tube down to the hatch. You 
can’t, he says, and he should know. He 
tried it from a balloon. You can’t re- 
main motionless on that surface, no 
matter how big your raft, with all that 
weight on it plus your crew. And you 
must remain motionless, or you can’t 
put the tube down. 

“Is that all?” I asked, and my tone 
made her flush. 

“Stop treating me like I was three 
years old !” she said furiously. 

“Then stop acting like it.” 

“All right,” she said coldly, formal- 
ly. “I warn you, Mr. Murchison, in front 
of witnesses. If you persist in this hare- 
brained scheme, and if those people die 
as a result of your failure, I, as a rep- 
resentative of the Solar System Salvage, 
will file charges of negligent and willful 
homicide against you and everybody 
concerned in the so-called rescue.” 

I looked at her for a long time. “A 
few unimportant details,” I said, “dis- 
tinguish you from a man. Conditioning 
stops me from knocking the tar out of 
you. But I will tell you this. It’s char- 
acteristic of any Solar employee to give 
my outfit a black eye, even at the ex- 
pense of ninety-seven lives.” 

I might as well have hit her. She stag- 
gered away from the savagery of my 
voice. “No,” she whispered. “That isn’t 
true !” 

“Like heck it isH*t true. You, as a rep- 
resentative of Solar, have held me up 
enough on this job. Can you get it 
through that thick — but pretty, I admit 
— skull that those are people out there, 
and minutes are precious? Now. Is that 
all?” 

S HE drew herself up, and if she had 
tears in her eyes so who cares ? She 
had no tears in her voice. It was the 
crisp voice of a space captain. 

“That’s all !” she snapped. “Since you 
won’t listen to reason, you can abide by 
the results. I’m deadly serious.” 

I sighed. “Okay, what do you sug- 
gest?" 




THICKER THAN WATER 127 

“Some way of raising the ship itself.” Two of the workmen, however, were 



“Look.” I was patient, and if that’s 
bragging, no matter. “We came up here 
to raise the ship, and the ship only. Mr. 
Nincompoop here — ” 

Mr. Caar flushed. “I — I tried,” he 
said, like a spaniel. , 

“I’m sorry again,” I said, and turned 
to Helen. “Mr. Caar was supposed to 
take the personnel off. He couldn’t. 
Meanwhile, I used the jacks for this job 
to pry your ship loose from that mag- 
netic asteroid and had to lose them. I 
thought we’d have plenty of time for 
this job. Now, it turns out we’ve got 
six hours. 

“I had planned to pump the ship 
empty of air and full of helium to 
raise it. I can’t do that with people 
aboard. And there aren’t any other jacks 
like those we lost. They were specially 
made. You go right ahead, sister, and 
file any charges you please. Meanwhile, 
let me alone. I’m busy.” 

I didn’t give her a chance to reply. I 
went on to the truck. I didn’t trot. I 
walked, slowly and thoughtfully. I had- 
n’t looked at the problem before from 
the viewpoint of an impartial observer. 
But she wasn’t impartial. Mr. Caar, the 
worry wart, chagrined at his own fail- 
ure, couldn’t admit that the job might 
be done by anybody else. He communi- 
cated his worries to her, and she, being 
a member of the Solar crowd, seized de- 
lightedly on the first club that came to 
hand. 

The hell of it was, she was right. Caar 
had a considerable local reputation and 
his testimony would carry weight with 
a jury. Add Helen’s testimony, and the 
deputy’s, that I had been warned my 
scheme wouldn’t work — and if it didn’t 
work — we were dead diplodocci. 

It was only fair to put it up to the 
others. I went back to the raft and 
stopped all work. We held a confab. I 
explained the situation. 

“So there it is,” I said. “We’re wast- 
ing valuable minutes here talking, may- 
be critical minutes. I think this method 
will work, but I could be wrong. We 
don’t have time to dream up anything 
else. We either go ahead on my scheme, 
or we just go away and let all those peo- 
ple die. But if we do try it, and fail, 
we’re stuck for the consequences. Take 
a vote. What do you want to do?” 

"Let’s get to work,” Carroll said soft- 
ly. Cap nodded his okay. 



scared out. Or lazy. The rest stuck, and 
Harry, the boatman, spoke up. 

“I c’n do more’n them two,” he said. 
“Where’s a wrench?” 

It wasn’t really a cheering matter, but 
everybody applauded. 

• I checked the compressors, built of 
featherweight metaplast, each having a 
1200-inch capacity. The giant generator, 
powered by captured radiant heat, 
hummed like a contented baby. I moved 
the load down to the raft, and we started 
putting things together. 

W E bolted down the compressors 
and winches, ran lines to the gen- 
erator, and loaded two sections of the 
escape tube. We attached high-pressure 
hoses to the bottom section, which could 
be sealed against the ship — if we ever 
got it down. 

When the last job was finished, we 
had about three hours left within the 
framework of a maximum six hours. 
Harry came over to me. He looked at me, 
at the ground, at me again. 

“Reckon I can’t go through with it,” 
he said. 

"I’m getting tired,” I said. "I’m most- 
ly sweat and fatigue. Now what?” 

"I c’n haul you over that buoy,” he 
said. “ ’N maybe you c’n stay afloat. But 
I’ll sink instantly. Told you I can’t stop 
on that stuff.” 

I was always pretty good at explain- 
ing things to child ren as long as I didn’t 
lose my temper. I held it in this time, 
but it cost me more sweat. 

“We’ll cast off when we get there,” I 
said slowly. “Then you’ll hightail it back 
here to bring out sections of the escape 
tube. You’ll work like mad, at full speed, 
because once we start down with that 
tube it’ll go pretty fast.” 

"Oh,” he said. He looked up at me, 
grinned faintly. “I’ll broaden my spray,” 
he said, “and give you a film for them 
skids.” 

We muscled the raft down to the 
beach. I thought of it as the beach, be- 
cause by now I wasn’t noticing the smell. 
We latched on to Harry’s boat, he took 
off, and we shoved until the raft was 
afloat. Then Cap, Carroll and I jumped 
aboard. The labor gang, the deputy, and 
even Mr. Caar cheered us. Helen — Cap- 
tain — Wall seemed to be crying, but I 
was too busy to make sure. 

“Start your generator and compres- 




128 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



sors," I ordered Cap. “Where’s that 
bucket of corks?” 

I found the corks, and while I ex- 
plained their purpose to Carroll, I 
watched the pressure gauges. All that 
machinery made quite a racket, and the 
raft throbbed gently. But the needles 
rose steadily toward the 500-pound 
mark, where the compressors would cut 
out automatically. I wanted to pat those 
gauges on the head. They indicated life 
or death for a lot of people — including 
us. 

“We’ll hang these corks from the 
edges,” I told Carroll. “Just above the 
surface. Then, if any section of the raft 
starts down, the cork there will hit the 
surface, and the string go slack. You 
can watch one side, I’ll take the other. 
Cap has a valve for each of those pres- 
sure bells. We simply tell him where we 
want more air.” 

We must have looked strange to those 
giant spiders — or to anybody, for that 
matter. They began to cluster around us, 
their antennae a mass of shifting rain- 
bow hues, their clicking mandibles audi- 
ble above the clamor we were making. 
Carroll eyed them a little nervously, and 
my hand shook a little too as several 
looked as if they were going to jump 
aboard. 

“Hey, are these things dangerous?” I 
yelled at Harry. 

“Never know," he said cheerfully. 
“Sometimes, if they get mad.” 

“What makes ’em mad?” 

“Nobody knows,” he said. 

“That’s just dandy,” I said to Carroll, 
and he grinned frozenly. 

But we strung our corks at intervals 
while the compressors happily squeezed 
in the fetid air. I could imagine the 
compression chambers gagging as that 
first rush of thick air came in. And while 
tye strung our corks, we had an interest- 
ed audience. 

One after another the spiders inspect- 
ed the corks, touching them with blue 
and yellow antennae, and each took a 
speculative nip. We were thankful a 
cork wasn’t their dish of tea. 

By the time we were nearing the buoy, 
I saw toy vehicles arriving on shore, and 
toy people joining the group we’d left 
behind. We were going to have plenty 
of witnesses to our rescue — or failure. 

“Ease off,” I called to Harry. 

The compressors began to cut out, one 
at a time, as each gauge registered 500. 



“Nice timing,” I said. “Shoot a little 
air into each bell,” I told Cap. “About 
fifty pounds, Fd guess.” 

H E worked gauges as I guided Harry 
in a straight run — crawl, rather — 
over the buoy. The inverted pressure 
bells on their skids held the deck high 
enough to clear the buoy, but the flag 
stuck several feet into the air. I plucked 
it out as the leading edge of the raft was 
near enough, and the buoy slid out of 
sight under us and the center hole moved 
toward it. 

“Axes,” Carroll said, and handed me 
one. Each of us took a post at a towing 
line. 

“Watch the hole, Cap,” I said. “Slow 
as possible, Harry!” 

We inched forward. 

“Stand by the valves, Cap.” 

“Aye, aye.” 

“This is it,” I said. “We’re only guess- 
ing at the pressure necessary to keep us 
afloat. You may have to work like light- 
ning, Cap. We’ll do our best to give you 
clear directions.” 

“Buoy in sight,” Cap said, “at edge of 
hole, one foot, two feet — cast off !” 
Carroll and I chopped the lines simul- 
taneously and leaped to our respective 
sides, flung ourselves full length, and 
watched the corks. 

A string went slack. “Port side, aft, 
more !” 

Air hissed, the string tautened. “Star- 
board, center, more !” Carroll called. 

Air hissed again, as something cold 
and slimy touched the back of my neck. 
I swiped at it, and from the corner of 
my eye saw one of the giant spiders skid 
away a few feet, where it clicked an- 
grily, its antennae a bright red. I didn't 
have time to look or worry. 

“Port, forward, quick!” I called. 

Air hissed, the deck raised, and a big 
bubble that would have smelled awful to 
a newcomer, broke from under the bell. 

Seconds passed, with no orders. Then 
a minute. I got up, literally streaming 
sweat. 

“I guess that’s it,” I said. “Now for 
the big job.” 

“Behind you, Jake!” Cap yelled. 

I whirled. The big spider was red all 
over now, and coming at me. Not with 
the characteristic gay speed, but slowly, 
ominously. I looked around for a weap- 
on. There wasn’t any. 

I got icicles on my neck, wondering 




THICKER THAN WATER 



what to do. The thing towered over me, 
raised to its full height, and those man- 
dibles looked as if they could lop off my 
head. "Give me some air,” Carroll said 
behind me. 

A stream of air practically roared 
over my head and blew the spider head 
over tail about fifty feet away. It looked 
surprised for a minute, then departed 
full speed for home and mama. 

I grinned at Carroll. He rewound sev- 
eral feet of the emergency hose on the 
winch. "That’s one thing that makes ’em 
mad, Jake,” he said gently, "Whatever 
you did to it.” 

"It was scratching my neck. I slapped 
it. Let’s go to work. By the way, thanks. 
That was quick thinking.” 

We made a final check on the lower, 
and most important, section of the tube. 
The hose nozzles were set so as to blow 
the muck away as it went down, keep- 
ing the tube empty. The sealing flap, a 
wide collar of rubber, was folded against 
the outside, held by an assembly which 
could be released from the inside. The 
theory was that if this were released, 
and the air cut off, the pressure of the 
slime would force the flap against the 
hull of the ship down there and seal it 
tight. 

Mr. Caar, I had discovered shortly 
after we arrived at Arcton City, had 
failed because he had conceived the buoy 
as a guide. The buoy, a hollow sphere 
filled with buoyant gas, was directly over 
the escape hatch, and its cable was the 
only guide to the sunken ship. But if 
the compressed air blew the muck away 
ahead of the tube, it would certainly 
blow the buoy away too. 

T HE solution was simple. We at- 
tached the buoy to the bottom of 
the tube. All that was necessary then 
was for the captain of the shuttle ship 
to reel in the buoy cable at the slowest 
possible speed. We didn’t have to do 
anything but keep the air hoses clear 
and screw each succeeding section in 
place as the preceding one sank. 

We established communication by 
hammer. I tapped out the situation to 
Captain Cole and told him what to do. 

"Thank gosh,” he replied. "Signal 
when ready.” 

"Give us some air,” I told Cap. 

He opened valves on the second com- 
pressor, and the muck blew away from 
the tube — all over us. 



129 

"Not so much !” 

I gave a go ahead signal, and the sec- 
tion started down, an inch at a time. 

We screwed on the next section. 
Harry came alongside then, with two 
workmen and six more sections. They 
strung these along the deck, as Harry 
couldn’t stop anywhere, and buzzed off 
for more, with orders to get more boats 
to haul passengers — if we got any out. 

We had one hour remaining in our 
allotted six when we had the bottom end 
of the tube against the ship. Carroll and 
I were stinking messes of our own per- 
spiration and spray from the stream of 
bursting bubbles that poured up outside 
the tube. We placed the anchor collar 
over the tube and bolted it down. That 
cut off the spray from bubbles, but too 
late to matter. 

"I didn’t want to bother you,” Cap 
said in his unhurried manner, "but the 
pressure on the forward port bell is 
dropping, and so is the forward port 
corner.” 

Carroll almost beat me to the corner. 
We found the trouble in a hurry — the 
bushing had sprung a leak, and we gave 
the wrench a ten-second work-out. 

"Not that it matters,” I said. "We 
can’t sink now as long as that escape 
tube stays upright. Keep your weather 
eye on the gauges, Cap, but you’ll have 
plenty of warning before anything goee 
wrong. I hope. Well, here goes — where’* 
the harness?” 

"Let me go,” Carroll said. "I’m in 
better shape than you. You look like 
you’ve been buried three years.” 

I eyed his spattered, dripping, king- 
size hulk. "You’re no beauty yourself. I 
wish I could let you go, Carroll. But I 
haven’t got four-foot shoulders. You 
have to bend over to release those seal- 
ing flaps, and I don’t think you could. 
If you couldn’t we’d have to haul you 
out and send me down, anyway. That 
would waste time, and time is what we 
haven’t got.” 

"I guess you’re right, Jake.” 

I put on the lowering harness, and 
climbed into the tube. Cap just glanced 
at me, keeping his eyes on various 
gauges, as was right, but Carroll looked 
worried. That is, the slime that passed 
for his face looked worried. 

"You’d better take a signal line, 
Jake.” 

"Why?” 

“Well, here’s the situation. We think 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



130 

we’ve centered this tube on the ship. It’s 
almost sure. But suppose something — 
I don’t know what, should jam that seal- 
ing flap so it won’t quite close. Muck 
would flood into the tube and you’d 
drown before we knew anything about 
it.” 

“Lord, you’re right. I hadn’t thought 
of that.” 

I tied a light line to my wrist, and 
Carroll got set to tend both lines. “Four 
tugs,” I said, “will mean shut off the 
air.” 

“Right.” 

“Lower away.” 

I T got darker and darker as I went 
down. I took the flashlight off my 
belt and pointed it down. There, against 
the hull of the ship, was the buoy. 

I came to rest on it, slid a hand down 
around its slimy side and tripped the 
sealing mechanism. I couldn’t tell if it 
worked or not, what with the roar of 
air that kept the bottom of the tube 
clear. 

If it had -worked, I'd be safe, and so 
would all those people beneath my feet. 
If it hadn’t— 

I yanked the signal line four times 
and wiped muck and sweat off my face. 

The roar ceased. I tensed my hand to 
signal. Nothing happened. It was sealed. 

I beat signals against the hull > and 
got an okay. I unfastened the lashings 
which had held the buoy cable to the 
escape tube and pulled it down perfectly 
straight. We had to get that three-foot 
ball out of the way before anything else. 
This meant a round trip with the cable, 
and more time. Precious time. Still, I 
couldn’t let them cut the cable in two 
inside the ship. That gas-fllled ball would 
shoot up like a rocket and might possibly 
explode in the tube and tear a hole. I 
couldn’t take a chance. 

I went up, beat a signal on the tube 
to let the buoy come up. Up it came, 
banging a little on the walls. We spliced 
a line to the cable below it, and I lit a 
cutting torch. 

“Just hold the cable so it doesn’t fall,” 
I told Garroll, “and stand clear. That 
buoy’s going places.” 

The buoy went up and out of our lives 
in a hurry. A string of flatboats now 
approached us, Harry in the lead. He 
waved, and started a wide circle around 
us, the others following. The spiders, 
which had sort of given us up, had fun 



skating in and out of the parade. 

I signaled to haul in on the cable and 
went down with it, holding the splice in 
one hand. On the way down I thought 
of Helen Wall and her threat and sup- 
pressed a grin. It wasn’t time to cele- 
brate yet. It looked good, but wan’t 
over. There was the matter of ninety- 
odd bodies, all, I hoped fervently, alive. 

I called a halt near the hull, unspliced 
the cable, and signaled to reel it in. 

The end of it disappeared inside, tbo 
sound of bolts and valves came through 
the hull. The hatch opened, a face peered 
up at me. 

"Thank heaven,” it croaked. 

I signaled to lower away, and Carroll 
dropped me into the ship. The face be- 
longed to Captain Ezra Cole, a once- 
spruce dark-haired man of forty, with 
mellow brown eyes. He was the only 
person in sight who was on his feet. 
Passengers lay everywhere, mouths 
open, gasping. Some had their eyes 
closed. Dead? 

We wasted no breath in speech. I got 
out of my harness, and Captain Cole 
and I loaded in the first passenger. She 
was a young woman with drowsy eyes. 

“Listen,” I said to her. “Remember 
this. You’re safe. Everything’s all right. 
But some of these people might die if 
we don’t get some fresh air. This place 
smells worse than I do. When you get 
to the top, tell them to send down the 
emergency air hose. Got it?” 

“ ’Mergency air hose,” she muttered 
sleepily. 

“Keep saying it,” I said. “Over and 
over.” 

I signaled to haul in, and she disap- 
peared up the shaft. 

Air revived them. They came back one 
by one from the border world between 
death and paying rent, and Captain Cole 
and I sent them up one at a time. I was 
going through the motions mechanically 
now, forcing my aching muscles to haul, 
shove and buckle. Then signal. Once I 
signaled four times, and Carroll shut off 
the air. Captain Cole and I looked stu- 
pidly at each other as the hissing 
stopped. It was probably a full minute 
before we realized what had happened, 
and another five minutes before we could 
make Carroll understand what to do. 

Captain Cole’s face was haggard, 
bearded and white, like plants that grow 
in the dark. I don’t know what mine 
looked like, with the slime and sweat, 




THICKER THAN WATER 



but it felt like it had been ground with 
sand. 

One person began to look like another, 
and then they stopped resembling peo- 
ple. Each one was just another load, 
another impossible job to do. 

Finally we were done. Captain Cole 
and I looked around. The big recreation 
hall was empty. 

“How many ’board,” I muttered. 

“Nine’y semm,” he said. 

“How many sent up?" 

“Dunno,” he said vacuously. 

“G’on up,” I said. “You go see.” 

“No, you. Cap’n this ship. Last off.” 

“Okay,” I sighed. “You boss. Gotta 
drink?” 

“Fie can find it, sure.” 

He staggered over to a closet, fumbled 
for his keys, opened it and staggered 
back with a bottle. He pulled the cork. 

“After you,” he said. 

That was what the doctor ordered. A 
delicious energy seeped into my con- 
sciousness, along my aching arms and 
legs. My eyes began to come awake. 
Some of the blur went away. 

Captain Cole took a hearty swig and 
managed a sort of grin as I started up 
to see how many we’d sent out. The 
count was complete, and we sent down 
the harness for the captain. 

T HE General Hospital at Arcton City 
was like almost any other, and 
Prentice McNamy lay in bed like any 
other patient. He was mad, like many 
patients in many hospitals, but unlike 
most, he wasn’t mad at the hospital. 

“I don’t know what it’s all about,” he 
told me and Cap. “An officer of Solar 
System Salvage came to me about six 
weeks ago and said that cargo of hercu- 
lium originally bound for Cambellon, or 
the third planet of Arcton as you call it, 
had been salvaged. He said that as an 
heir of the original purchasers I was 
entitled to a share. He said the best 
thing I could do was to join the other 
heirs and file an injunction against you.” 
I brought him up to date. I explained 
how Solar was after the secret of hercu- 
lium, presumably in a secret place, 
known only to the late Professor Pha- 
mign. 

“They’re after it,” I said, “and so are 
we. They’ve used whatever delaying tac- 
tics they can think of. I guess they’ve 
been looking for it while we worked on 
that shuttle ship.” 



131 

“People told me what you did there,” 
McNamy said, his thin face glowing. “I 
can’t thank you enough, of course, and 
anything you want from me — ” 

Somebody came into the room. I 
assumed it was the nurse and didn’t turn 
around. 

“As I get it,” I said, “you fronted for 
the heirs of the purchasers of that car- 
go ? And the insurance company restored 
their money around a hundred years 
ago ?” 

“That’s right.” 

“But Solar told you you had rights in 
it, even though it had been paid off, and 
persuaded you to file this injunction?” 

“Right again.” 

“Well, Mr. McNamy, you can see the 
fallacy in that. The ship we salvaged 
the cargo from was a drifting derelict. 
Anything we got from her is ours, un- 
der Interstellar Law.” 

“Of course, I see it,” he said. “But I 
wasn’t told that before. There were even 
some hints of piracy. I’ll withdraw the 
injunction as soon as I can get my law- 
yer here, and I promise there’ll never be 
any suit.” 

“That’s all we want,” I said. “So we’ll 
be on our way.” 

“Just a minute,” he said, raising a 
languid hand from the white covers. 
“Nobody knows this but me, I think. 
Professor Phamign’s private laboratory 
was on an asteroid. I can give you the 
original orbit of that asteroid when I 
can get to my office. But the asteroid, 
and the entire group of which it was a 
member, wandered off, attracted by a 
comet that passed too close.” 

“My gosh,” I said, “with that infor- 
mation we could really start to work, 
and now that our cargo has been re- 
leased we can sell it and have plenty of 
money to conduct the search. How come 
you know about it?” 

“My grandfather knew Phamign,” he 
said. “He kept a diary. I have it.” 

“Then we’ll call at your office. Thanks 
very much.” 

I turned to go out, and froze. It hadn’t 
been a nurse. It was Helen. 

“So now Solar will know about it, 
too,” I said. 

Her face flamed almost as red as her 
hair. “You fool !” she said, and she was 
on the verge of crying. “I didn’t know 
anything about where that injunction 
originated. But I’m going to see my 
father, and see that some heads fall. 




132 THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



And don’t you worry about this infor- 
mation — ” She nodded at McNamy — 
"going any further. I hope — oh, how I 
hope ! — you get the dope before anybody 
else!” 

"Pretty strange,” I said, "you being 
right on the spot after that injunction 
was served.” 

“All right,” she said. “I’m going to 
lead with my throat. I really looked you 
up to thank you again for what you did 
for me and those with me. And because 
I liked you and wanted to see you again. 
You’ve got a kind of lopsided smile that 
appeals to me. And you did a wonderful 
job on that shuttleship! That’s why I 
followed you here — to tell you. And to 



tell you you didn’t give me a chance te 
say I saw your position and wouldn’t file 
charges even if you hadn’t saved those 
people. Now — drat you, Jake Murchi- 
son !” 

She whirled and stumbled toward the 
door. 

It was easy to catch her. I never 
moved so fast before. 

“Hey,” I said. "Listen. Suppose I buy 
you a drink and we talk this over?” 

She mutinously refused to look at me, 
but she nodded. 

“Join us. Cap?” I asked. 

"I think you can do this job without 
help,” he said dryly. "If not, it’s time 
you learned.” 




'Wo*tden> Oddities 



W INTER sleet, or frozen raindrops, are more complex than is generally supposed, 
according to Japanese scientist Dr. Kotaro Honda. They are not solid bits of ice 
but are actually solidly-frozen spheres with liquid centers that never freeze, thanks 
to an internal pressure of some 50,000 pounds per square inch. 

O LDER by far than scientists formerly calculated are the ants and other insects found 
embalmed in the amber of the Baltic beaches, say Harvard entomologist Dr. Frank 
M. Carpenter and Dr. J. P. Marble of the U. S. National Museum. Previously held to be 
eight or nine million years old, recent studies have convinced the scientists that their 
years number from 55 to 60 millions of years. 




transmitter and parachute to bring it safely back to earth, the sphere, which is planned 
to be fired from rockets at 70 miles up, contains instruments built to measure every- 
thing from cosmic radiation to air pressure and temperature. 



B ELTAS are where you find them if the Dead River in Maine is any indication. This 
brief stream, which normally flows from Androscoggin Lake into the Androscoggin 
River over its seven-mile length, suffers a reversal of direction every spring when 
floodwaters lift the level of the river above that of the lake. Hence it has actually 
formed a delta at the wrong end. 

E VENTUAL aid to solar soil heating has been developed from carbon black, a sub- 
stance obtained from natural gas and previously used to toughen automobile tires, 
by scientists of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Cheap and easy to spread, the 
earbon black has kept large areas of tilled land from two to four degrees Fahrenheit 
wanner than untreated surrounding soil. 

R EPLACEMENT for the famed Geiger counter for measurement of atomic radiation 
intensity is probable if the new alpha scintillation counter, developed by scientists 
of the Atomic Energy Project, working at UCLA, proves satisfactory. About the size 
of a table-model radio, it is far faster and more sensitive in giving accurate measure- 
ment to low-count samples of soil arid ore. 





the Colorful Character 




Kosfc»lain*n broke Into 
a run 



by 

L. SPRAGUE 
DE CAMP 



G REGORY LAWRENCE put away raised his eyebrows, though the pale 
his notes about food-chains among eyes remained as noncommittal as ever 
the fresh-water organisms of the Pich- behind their glasses. "Uh — whafs 
idd River on the planet Krishna. He that?” 

yawned, stretched, lit a cigarette, and "The celebrity arrives to take the In- 
said : “I hear we’re supposed to be swept stitute by storm." 
off our feet, beginning tonight." “What celebrity?” 

Reginald Schmidt, at the next desk, "Hadn’t you heard ? Jeepers, you moat 

When Sir Erik Koskelainen arrives on Earth to take the Institute 
by storm, a scientist and a centaur form the reception committee/ 

1SS 



THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



134 

lead a sheltered life, boss. I refer to the 
great explorer of far planets, Sir Erik 
Koskelainen.” 

"Erik Kos — here on Earth?” Schmidt, 
caught in the act of lighting his pipe, 
stared open-mouthed at his assistant un- 
til the match burned his fingers. He 
dropped it, swore mildly, and lit another. 

Lawrence, watching the big light- 
haired man, tried to make out the ex- 
pression on the flat face. It was cer- 
tainly more animated than he had ever 
seen Reggie look before, but he couldn’t 
be sure of the meaning of the expression. 
It might betoken a mixture of astonish- 
ment, curiosity, indignation, and amuse- 
ment, all struggling for supremacy. 

"You know him?” said Lawrence. 

"I know of him,” mumbled Schmidt 
through his bush of mustache and 
around the stem of his pipe. He drew 
heavily on the pipe between words. "Uh 
— what’s this visit all about?” 

Lawrence shrugged. “He’ll be after a 
grant from the Institute, I suppose. He’s 
a guest of the Ferreiras, who are throw- 
ing a big party for him at the Princeton 
Saturday. Going?” 

Schmidt frowned at his pipe-bowl, 
looking a little cross-eyed as he did so. 
"Dunno. I usually duck those things.” 

"Better come. This guy is said to be 
a very colorful character. By the way, 
since you know about him, do you know 
if he’s married?” 

Up went the eyebrows again. “Not 
that I know of. Afraid he’ll — uh — make 
time with Licia?” 

"He might. You know how women are. 
He worries me. You see, I’m no colorful 
character.” 

S CHMIDT nodded. “You’re right 
there, Greg. You may make a good 
ecologist some day, but nobody would 
call you picturesque. How’s the affaire 
Licia Ferreira coming?” 

“So-so. I’m going over to spend the 
evening sitting in the Ferreiras’ parlor 
again.” 

" ’Smatter, can’t you afford to take 
the doe out?” 

"You don’t date Brazzy girls that 
way. It would be what they call an in- 
trigue, and — well, anyway, they have 
their own code in those matters.” 
"Don’t think that even if you marry 
the dame, as you seem determined to do, 
it’ll get you any professional advance- 
ment or special grants. Ferreira’s incor- 



ruptible, and even if he weren’t, the 
other members of the Finance Commit- 
tee — ” 

"I never had anything of the sort in 
mind !” cried Lawrence loudly. "She’s 
just a swell wren !” 

He dropped his voice as their col- 
league Louis Prevost stuck his long sad 
face around the door-jamb and said: 
“You geniuses through for the day?” 
Prevost was an old-timer at the Insti- 
tute by comparison with both Schmidt 
and Lawrence. 

“Yep,” said Lawrence. “How’s the 
study of that misbegotten centaur of 
yours coming?” 

Prevost sighed. “Magramen’s losing 
friends and alienating people as usual. 
I think he ought to be called half man 
and half mule instead of half man and 
half horse.” 

“Mind if I look in on him again?” 
asked Lawrence. 

“Not at all,” said Prevost. “Maybe 
you can figure out a way to sweeten his 
disposition.” 

Lawrence asked Schmidt: “Want to 
see him too?” 

Schmidt shook his head. “For some 
reason I’ve never had much interest in 
the Dzlieri. If I ever get around to work- 
ing on the xenology of Vishnu, then 
maybe I’ll take a squint.” 

Lawrence followed Prevost down to 
the ground floor of the laboratory build- 
ing, saying: “Maybe you could feed him 
an undergraduate every week. The way 
the guy in the myth did to his pet crit- 
ter — you know, the half-bull, half-man.” 

Prevost shook his head. “I’ve been 
tempted, but Magramen’s a pure vege- 
tarian.” 

Lawrence’s nose told , him they were 
approaching Magramen’s stall. The 
Dzlieri was not really half man and half 
horse. The front or upright part of him 
was not entirely human, with its long 
pointed ears, prognathous face, four- 
fingered hands, and solid coat of short 
glossy reddish hair. Nor was the rest of 
the extra-terrestrial strictly horse, with 
its three-toed feet and tufted tail. Still, 
the resemblance to a centaur was close 
enough to warrant the use of the term 
by those who found the native Vishnu- 
van name hard. 

Magramen paused in his eternal 
munching long enough to say: “What 
you two want, huh ?” 

“Just thought I’d say hello,” said Law- 




THE COLORFUL CHARACTER 135 



rence. “How’s the Earth treating you ?’ 
“Your Earth treat me rotten,” roared 
Magramen, waving his salad-fork. “This 
morning I read newspaper about horse- 
race. I ask Dr. Prevost simple thing — 
to go to race, enter myself, win a lot of 
a money. No harm, huh? No, stupid 
Mushmouth Prevost say no. Horserace 
people no let me in, he say.” 

“Well?” said Lawrence. 

"What he know? Never attend race in 
him life. Talk about science, how we 
must not never jump to conclusions. But 
won’t let me go to race, see if os fiscais 
won’t let me in. This esttigido think I 
can shoris agheara gakhda all day telling 
legends of Dzlieri; what think idzelu- 
buli do?” 

“Hey!” cried Lawrence. “I can’t fol- 
low you when you talk three languages 
at once. I’m afraid Louie’s right about 
the race, though. They’d disqualify you. 
But if you want some exercise, when are 
you going to let me ride you again?” 
“Never! All those saddles and things, 
they itch. Tell you what you do, Greg- 
ory en. Get real horse and we have race, 
you on horse, me all by self, Huh?” 
“Jeepers, that would be a sight! I'll 
think about it. Have a cigarette?” 
“Obrigado. Too much red tape on 
Earth. I think I go back to Vishnu.” 
“When your contract is up,” remind- 
ed Prevost. 

Magramen told Prevost what to do 
with his contract, and they left him 
glowering and puffing furiously. 

G regory Lawrence showed up 

on the Ferreira doorstep at the 
usual time, shook hands with the lovely 
brunette, and settled down to an eve- 
ning of chaff under the watchful eye of 
Senhora Ferreira. His willingness to put 
up with this treatment had so far given 
him an edge over the undergraduates 
from the University who would other- 
wise have swarmed about Licia Fer- 
reira. 

This time Lawrence had not gotten 
very far in his campaign, however, when 
the doorbell rang again. Licia bounced 
out of her chair to answer it. Lawrence 
heard : 

“But surely, come in, Mr. Koskelai- 
nen ; we’ve been expecting you. Oh, 
Pai!” 

Ferreira’s goatee swam into view to 
meet the new arrival, and the voice of 
the chairman of the Finance Committee 



said: “A great pleasure, Sir Erik. This 
is my wife, and my youngest daughter 
Licia. And this is Dr. Lawrence, who 
works with Dr. Schmidt on his ecolog- 
ical survey project at the Institute.” 

The conqueror of far planets shot out 
a hand of long fingers taut with latent 
strength to seize Lawrence’s hand and 
wring it — not quite hard enough to hurt, 
but hard enough to suggest that they 
could crush if they wanted to. 

He was really a most impressive fig- 
ure, Lawrence admitted to himself with 
a pang of envy: tall, broad-shouldered 
and slim-waisted, with light hair com- 
bined with wide cheek-bones and flattish 
features that gave him a slightly Mon- 
goloid look, but still handsome by con- 
ventional standards. The man seemed to 
be at that delightfully indeterminate age 
when one is old enough to have had a 
past and still young enough to have a 
future. His clothes were the height of 
something or other, beginning with a 
red-lined Hollywood cape thrown back 
over one shoulder. 

Jeepers, thought Lawrence, my worst 
fears are realized. 

Here Lawrence was, a perfectly ordi- 
nary-looking young man, forced to com- 
pete with this exhibitionistic hero. May- 
be he ought to cultivate some deliberate 
eccentricity of appearance or behavior, 
such as growing a beard or keeping a 
pet ostrich, to lift the curse of his com- 
mon-placeness. 

Piercing eyes bored into his, and Kos- 
kelainen boomed : “Why, I know you by 
reputation, Dr. Lawrence!” 

“Me?” Greg Lawrence had hardly 
thought of himself as yet having a repu- 
tation he could be known by. 

“Certainly. Didn’t you do that excel- 
lent report on the balance between earth- 
worms and soil bacteria in the Philip- 
pine Islands?” 

“Y-yes, I suppose so.” 

“Well then?” Koskelainen clapped 
Lawrence lightly on the shoulder. “Of 
course I know all you fellows are genius- 
es or you couldn’t get in here in the first 
place. Don’t look cross, I’m not being 
sarcastic. I know a sound grasp of a 
subject when I see it, and why shouldn’t 
you recognize your own worth? I envy 
you, you know; I’m no genius. I’ve just 
had a run of luck and the knack of han- 
dling men in tight places. How'd you like 
to go with me some time?” The visitor 
emphasized his points with graceful 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



136 

movements of his finger-tips. 

A little overwhelmed by this flow of 
talk, Lawrence could only say: "Huh?” 
"Sure. You know that project of 
mine? The thing I’m really here about? 
It’s to persuade Dr. Ferreira and his 
colleagues to set up a complete biolog- 
ical survey of Ganesha. Never been done. 
We’d go in three or four teams, each of 
which would need at least one good 
ecologist. Sounds to me as if you’d be 
the kind I’d want : young, healthy, good 
reflexes, devoted to the job, and with a 
solid grasp of his specialty. The pay 
would be right, too. Of course there’d 
be some risk in a wild world like Gan- 
esha, but I know a man of your type 
wouldn’t let that deter him.” 

"Well — uh — I — ” Lawrence felt him- 
self torn several ways. Prepared to 
loathe this overpowering stranger, he 
felt himself succumbing to the man’s ex- 
traordinary charm. The offer was most 
flattering, and just what he’d long 
dreamed of — though on the other hand 
it would take him away from Licia for 
several years at a stretch. 

K OSKELAINEN, as if reading his 
thoughts, said: "You can’t answer 
now, of course, since nothing’s settled 
yet. But bear it in mind ; we’ll talk about 
it some more.” He turned to his host. 
"You know, Dr. Ferreira, you really 
have no business introducing me to such 
ravishingly beautiful daughters. First 
thing you know I’ll be chucking the 
project in order to gaggle after them. 
Don’t mind me, Senhorita; I just rattle 
on this way to hide my inferiority com- 
plex. Now, tell me about yourselves. 
Must get oriented, you know. What does 
Miss Ferreira do? College?” 

* * * * * 

"What’s — uh — what hit you?” asked 
Schmidt when Lawrence showed up at 
the laboratory next morning. 

"You mean this vacant, lost look on 
my face?” said that young man. "I’ve 
just been given the double-whammy by 
Sir Erik Koskelainen, and the effect 
hasn’t yet worn off.” 

"How d'you mean?” 

Lawrence told of the explorer’s ar- 
rival. "When I shoved off at twenty-two 
he was still at it. Boy, if I had that per- 
sonality and those looks I wouldn’t need 
any brains. He did most of the talking, 
but he was so danged amusing and flat- 
tering about it that nobody minded. 



When I got home I wrote down some of 
the funny stories he told so I can use 
’em myself some time.” 

"A formidable type, huh?” 

"I should say so. In theory I hate his 
viscera, but if he walked in here now, he 
could talk me into anything. I’d be putty 
in his hands.” 

Schmidt was digging at the bowl of 
his pipe. "Did he say what brought him 
to the Institute of Advanced Study?” 
"Yeah, I was j going to tell you.” Law- 
rence described the explorer’s project 
for a complete biological survey of the 
planet Ganesha. 

"Hm,” said Schmidt. “That would 
cost a bit. Let me think ! . . . Olf-hand, 
I should say that it would absorb every 
nickel of the appropriation for new 
projects, and probably soak up some of 
the funds for old ones as well.” 

"You mean it might cut into ours 
too?” 

“Don’t know yet, but it might. Think 
I’ll look in on this shindy Saturday after 
all. Meanwhile keep your eye on Sir 
Erik.” 

Next day Lawrence told his superior: 
"Something’s up, all right. When I called 
up to arrange my usual session at the 
Ferreiras’ last night, it turned out Kos- 
kelainen was taking the whole lot out to 
dinner; some fancy place in the city. 
And then when I asked about tonight, 
Licia told me she had a date with him. 
A date, mind you! This guy must have 
hypnotized Papa Ferreira or something, 
because he wouldn’t violate his old Bra- 
zilian customs for anything less. Where 
does that leave me ?” 

“Uh — up a well-known tributary 
without adequate means of propulsion,” 
said Schmidt. “It won’t comfort you any, 
but you ought to know that nobody can 
get near this Sir Erik during the day, 
either. He’s closeted with the Finance 
Committee from morning to night. It’s 
what, in the military schools on Krishna, 
they call a lightning offensive.” 

"You been there?” Lawrence asked, 
for Schmidt, during the few months 
they had worked together, had been 
close-mouthed about his background. 

Schmidt nodded briefly. “Once. A war- 
like lot, and crazy to get modern Earthly 
weapons. Good thing the Interplanetary 
Council made the Viagens Interplane- 
tarias exclude all gadgets from the 
planet. By the way, where can I borrow 
a dinner-jacket with the fixings?” 




THE COLORFUL CHARACTER 137 



“I’ve got an old one I outgrew some 
years ago.” 

“Not big enough for my purposes." 
“Why, haven’t you one of your own ?” 
“Yes, but this is for another guest." 
“Who?” 

“You’ll see.” 

S CHMIDT had promised to drive Law- 
rence to the Princeton for the Insti- 
tute dinner in honor of Sir Erik. Law- 
rence, however, was not prepared for 
having his boss drive up in a truck. 

“What the devil, Reggie?” he cried. 
“That tux sure looks out of place in that 
van.” 

Schmidt puffed unperturbed on his 
pipe and jerked a thumb towards the 
rear. “Got another guest with us." 
“Who?” 

“Uh — Magramen." 

“What?" 

“Yeah. He’s eligible, since he’s doing 
professional work on a project. And his 
table-manners can really be quite good 
when he takes the trouble.” 

“My gosh! You don’t know what 
you’re getting us into! If he thinks 
somebody’s crossing him, he’s apt to get 
mad and start slinging soup-bowls 
around the room, with the soup in them. 
Why did you ever ask him? I thought 
you had no particular use for Dzlieri.” 
“I had a particular use for him this 
time. And he’ll behave.” 

At the hotel they got out and let down 
the tailgate. There was a scrambling 
sound from within, and the Dzlieri 
leaped lightly to the ground and brushed 
the sleeves of his dinner-jacket with his 
hands. Lawrence jerked in his breath 
when he saw the extra-terrestrial, who 
had his face shaved and the quasi-hu- 
man part of his body clad in a dress 
shirt and a dinner-coat. 

Schmidt said : “I thought of trying to 
get some sort of special pants with four 
legs to go over his horse part, but there 
wasn’t time. I guess they’ll consider 
him — ah — decent.” 

“Jeepers,” said Lawrence, “I think 
he’ll be spectacular enough as he is." 

“Got plenty salad? Plenty cocktail?" 
said Magramen. “I are hungry.” 

“You’re always hungry, old horse,” 
said Schmidt. 

“Gotta have plenty cocktail to Btand a 
sight of Earthmen eating meat,” con- 
tinued the yishnuvan. “Disgusting 

species.” 



“That'll be taken care of,” said 
Schmidt. “I’ll even treat you, since I 
know you’re the Galaxy's leading tight- 
wad. Come on.” 

The big xenologist led the way into 
the hotel. He and Lawrence had to hold 
the folding front doors open to let 
Magramen pass through, since the 
extraterrestrial could not manage them 
himself because of his length of body. 
He went, grumbling about the stupidity 
of Earthly architects. 

The people in the lobby showed only 
a mild interest in Magramen. After all 
they knew about Dzlieri and other extra- 
terrestrial species. Many of them had 
seen Magramen himself cantering about 
the town with Lawrence on his back, and 
finally they were hardened to the out- 
landish creatures that sometimes fre- 
quented the Institute of Advanced Study. 

The three marched into the cocktail 
lounge, which was swarming with sav- 
ants who made respectful way for the 
Dzlieri, as though impressed by his size 
if not by his intellect. Schmidt ordered 
four double martinis, one each for him- 
self and Lawrence and two for Magra- 
men, whose capacity was in proportion 
to his bulk. 

The talk and smoke were thick, and 
the three stood quietly drinking and 
batting back the greetings tossed at 
them while the press of great minds 
eddied around them. 

Lawrence jerked a discreet thumb 
towards the densest knot at the end of 
the bar, from the midst of which boomed 
the ringing voice of Sir Erik Koske- 
lainen. 

Schmidt exchanged glances with the 
Vishnuvan. 

Magramen said: “Now?” 

“No. Wait till after dinner.” 

“They’re going to dance, you know,” 
said Lawrence. 

Schmidt nodded. “Finish up, every- 
body. They’re beginning to go in.” 

Under Schmidt’s leadership they took 
places fairly well down towards the end 
of one leg of the horseshoe into which 
the tables had been arranged. One of the 
Institute’s other two extraterrestrials, 
the reptilian fellow with the unpro- 
nounceable name from Osiris, took a 
place next to them. The e. t.’s always had 
a tendency to huddle together from 
lonesomeness at these functions. The 
other one, the tailed man from Koloft 
on Krishna, sat across the way. 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



138 - 

M AGRAMEN pulled out two chairs 
to make room to curl his equine 
bulk against the table. Koskelainen, re- 
splendent in the red-and-blue full-dress 
of a major in the World Federation 
armed force, sat at the head of the 
horseshoe, at the right of the director. 
(He must have a reserve commission, 
thought Lawrence; was this the proper 
occasion to wear it? He thought not.) 

Lawrence reflected that on the whole 
the greatest minds in the Galaxy, as the 
Institute was intended to comprise, were 
not much to look at. They ran to bald- 
ness, thick glasses, and a doddery man- 
ner which made Koskelainen stand out 
amongst them like a sunflower in a coal- 
scuttle. As for their women, with a few 
exceptions, the less said the better. He 
gulped when he saw that Licia sat on 
the other side of Koskelainen and was 
looking at him with every appearance 
of devotion. Beyond her sat Papa Fer- 
reira and his Senhora. 

As Institute dinners went, it wasn’t 
so bad, especially when you considered 
that most of the members were notori- 
ously indifferent to fine food, and there- 
fore the management had no motive for 
laying itself out to provide a feast for 
gourmets. Lawrence hardly tasted his, 
however, what with the distractions of 
looking toward Licia and wondering 
what Schmidt was going to do. 

When it was over the director made a 
little speech introducing “the man who 
needs no introduction, our own Dr. Joao 
Ferreira, who will tell you about certain 
matters.” 

And Ferreira did: “ — the Finance 
Committee has been so impressed by the 
proposal put forward by Sir Erik Kos- 
kelainen that we have accepted it in 
principle, leaving only details to be 
worked out. I now introduce our guest of 
the evening, Sir Erik Koskelainen !” 
Lawrence exchanged glances with 
Schmidt, meaning: “So it’s all decided 
already !” As he did so he observed that 
among his colleagues others likewise 
seemed astonished, even while they ap- 
plauded politely. Lawrence thought, 
Like us, they’re wondering if their own 
appropriations will be cut into. Of 
course if this gloop hires a lot of the 
Institute personnel to run his survey, it 
won’t make so much difference. 

Koskelainen himself was speaking, 
forcefully, eloquently, with flashes of 
humor and sly self-deprecation. And he 



made it plain at the start that his proj- 
ect would make the maximum use of 
scholars and scientists already affiliated 
with the Institute. You couldn’t help 
warming to the bird, thought Lawrence. 
He even had the grace to end his speech 
before anybody became bored. 

Schmidt said : “Come on, Greg, follow 
him into the ballroom. Maybe we’d bet- 
ter let him have one dance, so there 
won’t be such a crowd around him.” 
"Yeah, but he’ll dance with my girl!” 
“Well, whom d'you expect him to 
dance with? Ah — Magramen? Come 
along, old horse! You’ve eaten enough 
salads for one evening.” 

“Ain’t that many salads,” growled 
the Dzlieri, scooping up another fistful. 

They straggled into the ballroom. 
Sure enough Koskelainen was spinning 
away down the floor with Licia Fer- 
reira, dodging through the Institute 
couples like a speedboat cutting through 
a lot of barge tows. The tailed man was 
trying awkwardly to dance with the di- 
rector’s wife, and Louis Prevost, danc- 
ing with Professor Saito’s wife, was 
looking over her shoulder apprehensive- 
ly at Magramen, as if wondering how 
long the Dzlieri would continue to be- 
have himself. 

Lawrence saw Schmidt timing the 
revolutions of the dancers about the 
floor. As the number ended, the xenolo- 
gist said: “Come on!” and pushed to- 
wards Koskelainen, conspicuous in his 
finery. Schmidt said to Lawrence: “In- 
troduce us.” 

“Hello, Sir Erik,” said Lawrence. “I’d 
like you to meet a couple of friends of 
mine : Dr. Schmidt and Mr. Magramen.” 
Schmidt, shaking hands, said: “I 
don’t think you remember me, do you?” 
Koskelainen, all smiles, said : “Not 
off-hand, unless I ran into you at some 
meeting. I — His voice trailed off as 
Schmidt removed his glasses. 

Schmidt said : “I don’t think you ever 
met Magramen, though you knew a lot 
of the Dzlieri on Vishnu, and he’s known 
about you for a long time. Haven’t you, 
Magramen?” 

“Is sure thing,” said Magramen, ex- 
tending a hairy-backed hand. “Chrdul 
karu uqe dres, tsameskhmibna usuni 
otsnet djor?” 

“I beg your pardon?” beamed Kos- 
kelainen. “I'm afraid you’ve got me on 
that dialect, old man.” 

“Funny how soon you’ve forgotten it, 




THE COLORFUL CHARACTER 13S 



isn’t it?” said Schmidt. “Listen again." 

Magramen repeated his sentence. An 
interested circle of spectators had 
formed. Koskelainen frowned. “What 
sort of gag is this?” 

“No gag at all. A few years ago you 
were fluent in Magramen’s dialect, as 
you call it.” 

“0 well, a man can forget!” 

“That is, Koskelainen was fluent in it 
when he was on Vishnu. Suppose you 
tell us about your work on that stay? 
Especially since Magramen was there at 
the time, when the real Koskelainen 
visited the planet, so he can — uh — cor- 
roborate — ” 

“Say, are you calling me a fake?” 

“Precisely.” 

“Why you — you Venerian mud- worm ! 
I thought the members of the Institute 
were gentlemen as well as scholars. It 
seems I was mistaken. Good-night, 
everybody.” Koskelainen shouldered 
through the circle of spectators. 

F ERREIRA appeared with a stricken 
expression. “My heavens, Reggie, 
what have you done? Sir Erik, wait, 
wait ! There must be some mistake !” 
“Stop that guy,” said Schmidt. “He’s 
no more Erik Koskelainen than I’m Na- 
poleon.” 

Lawrence pushed after the departing 
guest of honor. Magramen, clenching 
and unclenching fists with a gleeful ex- 
pression, clattered behind him. By the 
time they reached the front door, pur- 
sued and pursuers were both running. 

Magramen said in a disappointed 
tone : “If he get outside, I no can catch. 
Can’t see in dark.” 

“I’ll fix that,” said Lawrence. “Hold 
still a sec.” The young ecologist vaulted 
onto the Dzlieri’s back. “Now, giddap, 
and I’ll guide you. Hey, you !” This was 
to a startled bellboy. “Hold that front 
door open for us, will you?” He ducked 
through the door, thinking how lucky it 
was not of the revolving kind. 

“Hang it !” said Lawrence. “The guy’s 
got away — no, there he is ! On your 
right !” He had glimpsed the gaudy uni- 
form trying to slip out of sight behind 
some of the ornamental shrubbery 
ranged along the front of the Princeton. 

As they neared the shrub, Koskel- 
ainen broke into a run and Magramen 
into a gallop. The savants were stream- 
ing out of the hotel now, and they gave 
chase too. However, their age soon left 



them far in the rear, though the tailed 
man from Koloft did not too badly. Kos- 
kelainen ran like the wind, but the 
Dzlieri like the hurricane. 

As Magramen overtook him, Koskel- 
ainen dodged. Lawrence, gripping the 
slack of Magramen’s coat to steady him- 
self with left hand, leaned far to the 
right and caught Koskelainen’s hair. 

Koskelainen jerked frantically and 
the hair came off with a ripping sound. 
Lawrence found himself holding a well- 
made wig, and Koskelainen’s natural 
hair was seen in the light of the street- 
lamp to be the bright green of a Krish- 
nan. Furthermore it transpired that the 
wig had included a peak of artificial skin 
coming down low over the forehead to 
hide the feathery antennae that sprang 
from between the Krishnan’s eyebrows. 

Magramen had skidded to a stop and 
whirled. Before the Krishnan could 
dodge again, the Dzlieri seized him and 
hoisted him high in the air. 

“What you want me do with he ?” said 
Magramen. “Can have much fun bust- 
ing skull against an lamp-post, I think, 
yeah, huh?” 

“No, just carry him back. Oh, here’s 
a cop. Officer, will you pinch this guy?” 
“Which one? The inhuman monster 
or the felly he’s holding?” 

“The felly he’s holding.” 

“What for?” 

“Well, impersonating a military offi- 
cer will do to begin with. Here’s Dr. 
Schmidt from the Institute, who’ll tell 
you all you need to know about it.” 
Schmidt said, after getting his 
breath: “Guess I’ll have to — uh — go to 
the station-house to comply with for- 
malities. Where’s ;he nearest one?” 
The policeman gave the address of 
the Third Precinct headquarters. 
Schmidt said ; “Greg, get the truck and 
drive Magramen down there to pick me 
up. See you in a few minutes.” 

On his way back to the hotel, Law- 
rence encountered L i c i a Ferreria, 
streaming along with the general rout 
of members and guests of the Institute. 
Expecting appreciation for the athletic 
part he had played in unmasking the im- 
postor, he said : “Licia, I — ” 

“I don’t care to talk to you, Mr. Law- 
rence!” And off she went, leaving Law- 
rence standing on the sidewalk with his 
mouth open. 

He pulled himself together and led 
Magramen to the truck. Half an hour 




THRILLING WONDER STORIES 



140 

later they picked up Schmidt, The xenol- 
ogist exuded self-satisfaction, but Law- 
rence had his own troubles. "She would- 
n’t speak to me !” he moaned. "Wouldn’t 
even let me explain!” 

"Well, what d’you expect?” said 
Schmidt, lighting his pipe. "I suppose 
she’d fallen for this bleep, and you bust- 
ed her illusion. You don’t — uh — expect 
people to thank you for that, do you?” 
Lawrence sighed. “I suppose not.” 
"Cheer up. Either she’ll get over it, 
in which case everything’ll be okay, or 
she won’t, in which case you’re lucky to 
escape such a dumb jane.” 

"Who was Koskelainen really?” 

"Oh, that. Just a Krishnan named 
Chabarian bad-Seraz, a suitor for the 
hand of the only daughter of the King 
of Balhib. All very romantic. The king 
wants to industrialize and arm his coun- 
try and make a great power of it, re- 
gardless of Interplanetary Council pol- 
icies. So he told this bird he could have 
his daughter and be his successor to the 
throne if he’d go to Earth and bring 
back certain things, like that fellow in 
the myths who had to get the golden 
apples and things. Herakles, wasn’t it?” 
"Yes, but what were the things?” 
“Oh, first, a fund of technical infor- 
mation adequate to effect an industrial 
revolution. Second, a group of techni- 
cians to teach the Balhibuma what they 
needed to know about science and engi- 
neering. Third, enough money to bribe 
any I. C. or Viagens people who might 
try to stop them. 

"I think Chabarian underestimated 
the honesty of the I. C. and the Viagens, 
but you’ll admit he was ingenious in 
carrying ou the plan. For one thing he 
looked like Koskelainen, and for another 
he mastered the part of an Earthman 
almost perfectly. The real Koskelainen 
was never such a flamboyant character, 
though. If we take the heels of his shoes 
apart we’ll probably find a whole techni- 
cal encyclopedia on microfilm stuffed in- 
to them. And by getting this grant from 
the Institute and enlisting a flock of sci- 
entists for service on a far planet he 
hoped to accomplish his other tasks.” 
Lawrence said: “How did he expect 
to get past the physical examinations 
for Viagens passengers without being 
found out?” 

“The same way he did on the trip in, 
I suppose. Money.” 

“You seem to know an awful lot about 



this, Reggie. How did you find it out?” 

S CHMIDT grinned. "You seem dis- 
creet enough. Can you keep some- 
thing under your hat?” 

"I guess so.” 

"Well, I’m really Erik Koskelainen.” 
“What?” 

"Sure. Chabarian didn’t know me at 
first with my glasses and whiskers.” 
"Tell me about it!” 

"Oh, it’s nothing much. When I visited 
Balhib the king first tried to get me to 
help him with his scheme. When I 
wouldn’t he threw me in the jug. Then 
when I pretended to fall in with it in 
order to get out, he wouldn’t trust me. 
Instead he sent Chabarian to socialize 
with me. It wasn’t for some time that I 
got wise to the fact that he was studying 
me in order to take my place. Don’t know 
how he got to Earth — he must have tak- 
en a job at Novorecife in order to study 
human beings some more. 

"Anyway I escaped from the king’s 
cooler and came back myself. The king 
had treated me pretty rough so my 
nerves were shot, and I thought I needed 
a few months of some quiet job incog, 
and got this one. I’d told Chabarian 
about the Institute in the course of a 
conversation in my cell, so I thought he 
might show up here sooner or later. 
Then, when he did, I couldn’t denounce 
him directly without exposing myself, 
but Magramen took care of that.” 

They drew up to the laboratory build- 
ing and got out and let Magramen out 
of the truck body. Schmidt opened the 
door with his pass-key, and led the way 
down the corridor towards the Dzlieri’s 
stall. Magramen clattered behind peer- 
ing into the empty offices. 

Lawrence glanced back at their com- 
panion and lowered his voice to ask a 
final question: “How did you get our 
equine friend to cooperate so nicely? 
Poor Prevost has been trying to for 
months without getting anywhere.” 
“Simple again. I knew what was mak- 
ing Magramen wild, so I promised him 
a beautiful blonde.” 

“What?” cried Lawrence with some- 
thing like horror. “Jeepers, you can’t! 
I mean it’s physically impossible!” 
“Can’t I?” As they approached the 
stall a whinny came from within, and 
there stood a bay mare. Schmidt nudged 
his subordinate. "Uh — see what I 
mean?” 




THE READER SPEAKS 

(Continued from page 9) 



itually as well as physically. And the idea 
of mankind fostering its own evolution is 
one which not only equals the unfolding 
dream of space flight but is a necessary 
corollary to the coming spread of humanity 
among the other planets. 

For if we go to other worlds as we are, 
we shall very probably destroy the entire 
Solar System ! 



OUR NEXT ISSUE 

D IRK WYLIE and Frederic Arnold 
Rummer, Jr., tee off in the lead spot 
of the February issue of TWS with one of 
the swiftest, most exciting and ingenious 
short novels we have had the privilege of 
publishing in some time. It is entitled 
WHEN TIME WENT MAD and from the 
opening paragraphs, when Webb Hildreth 
returns to his apartment to find a stranger 
awaiting him there, to the final page, when 
Webb is finally able to make his peace in a 
world as yet unborn, it should hold the fas- 
cinated and fearful .nterest of any reader 
whose pulse beats at more than a once-a- 
minute clip. This is a story that moves. 

For Ron Dineen, Webb s uninvited visi- 
tor, is not only a stranger but a caller from 
the distant future. He is not only a caller 
from the future but is Webb’s unilateral 
Mendelian homogenic descendant — in short, 
a throwback from time to come. And he is 
not only a throwback but a fugitive from a 
"Time of Troubles” calculated to give even 
Professor Toynbee the triple horrors. 

Webb is naturally reluctant to help him 
but choice is taken out of hi- hands when 
Dineen’s pursuers come inrupting into his 
apartment, forcing both Ron and himself to 
flee through time and, ultimately, to share 
their surviving body — that of Webb Hil- 
dreth. 

It is their escape and ensuing troubles 
that disrupt the web of time itself, causing 
eras and eons to coalesce, to divide, to van- 
ish in one of the most fascinating concepts 
of watped horology we have yet seen in 
science fiction. WHEN TIME WENT MAD 
combines action and intellect in a combina- 
tion far happier than any of the tortured 
time-tracks it deals with.. 

Then too, Henry Kuttner rings a flock of 
bells in a brilliant and sardonic portrayal 
of alien form for future sociological and 
anthropological reference — a subtle and fas- 
cinating novelet, THE VOICE OF THE 



LOBSTER. This is the story of Terence 
Lao-Tse MacDufl', a sorely perplexed and 
harried confidence expert of the interplane- 
tary era ahead, a creature whose very hu- 
man flair for larceny is matched by the in- 
humanity of his outer shell. 

Terence, of course, is not actually a lob- 
ster — but what he actually is does not be- 
come evident until the very end of the 
story. Suffice it to say he is something 
utterly unexpected and something utterly 
delightful. You’ll find out. 

Those of you who have been asking for an 
early return of Leigh Brackett, along with 
other Brackettfans, who seem to include 
most of the stf public, will welcome her 
return to these pages in a second novelet, 
THE DANCING GIRL OF GANYMEDE. 

Here, in the story of a human who falls 
in love with an amazing android “girl” is a 
tale of imaginative high romance, of peril 
and of inevitable tragedy that is keyed to 
the deepest of human emotions. Again, it 
is swift and certain, yet always containing 
the promise of escape from the inevitable. 
It is one of the finest non-novel-length 
stories Miss Brackett has yet written in 
the stf field. 

The short story, of course, will be in evi- 
dence too — and with such names as Brad- 
bury, Hubbard, de Camp, St. Clair, Lein- 
ster, Smith, Hamilton and many others to 
draw from should hold quality as well as 
quantity. And we, poor wretch, will be 
present in the usual give-and-take. In brief, 
the next issue looks like a fitting start for 
a grand TWS year. 



LETTERS FROM OUR READERS 

A PPARENTLY the science fiction fan 
club listings, which we have sought 
the past eighteen months to run twice a 
year — in the December TWS and the July 
SS — is a bust. At any rate we received only 
four requests this time out — and that is 
hardly enough to warrant continuation of 
the service. Unless there is a fanclub up- 
roar over it, we have decided to drop the 
whole idea. 

Meanwhile, the four who did — 

EUGENE SCIENCE-FANTASY SOCIETY, 144 East 17th, Euqonft, 
Oregon. President, Rosco E. Wright, Meetings, 7:30 P.M., 
the second Thursday of each month. 

OTTAWA SCIENCE FICTION SOCIETY, M5 Second Avenue. 
Ottawa, Canada. President, L. F. "Lew" Holland, 2 Huron 
Avenue, Oltawa. 

SCI FANS, 1308 Hoe Avenue, Bronx 5?, New York, President, 
S. Serxner. 



141 




TUCSON SCIENCE FICTION SOCIETY, 607 East Pastime, 
Tuscon Arizona. President, Thomas E. Voorhees. Meetings 
every Monday from September through May. 

Also in the mail are .. trio of short takes, 
which we shall handle more or less en masse, 
to wit — 

What's a “dietetic memory" (see TWS, August. 1949, Page 
106, column I, line 2)7 

Actually, it was mispelled “dietic” and the 
actual word, as typed by van Vogt, was 
“eidetic.” According to Webster eidetic 
means “an individual with unusually vivid 
mental images, which often persist and may 
sometimes be recalled.” Blame it on the 
printer or the proofreader or ourselves. 
At any rate van Vogt had it right. 

And Mrs. Paul M. Paswaters of 10200 
Baraga, Dearborn, Michigan, writes — 

Dear TWS Editor: As a new fan I would like to hear from 
♦he other tans. I enjoyed your editorial in TWS for August 
and THE READER SPEAKS was swell. I haven't read enough 
science fiction to criticize your stories — but I'll get there 
someday. So far I can only say I’ve enjoyed everything in 
your magazine. 

A lovely missive — and the pity of it is that 
Mrs. Paswater will almost certainly acquire 
the knowledge she seeks and will soon be 
belting us over the head with cement bal- 
loons. But it’s wonderful while it lasts. 

And someone, initialed A. L. of Milwau- 
kee 6, Wisconsin, has the following in- 
quiry — 

Dear Editor: Could you or anyone else tell me what other 
stories A. Merritt wrote besides the following. Would like 
♦o get them. Also would like the pocket edition of Face in 
♦he Abyss by Merritt, not the large sue — 

Creep Shadow Creep, Burn Witch Burn, Ship of Ishtar, 
The Moon Pool, Metal Monster, Dwellers irk the Mirage, 
Seven Footprints to Satan, The Drone, Through the Dragon 
Glass Rhythm of the Spheres, Woman of the Wood, The 
Fox Woman. 

Frankly, we know of none save The Black 
Wheel, which, like The Fox Woman, was 
posthumously completed by Hannes Bok. 
Merritt’s literary output, of course, was 
limited by the fact that he was the im- 
mensely prosperous managing editor of 
Hearst’s American Weekly for decades and 
succeeded to the editorship on the death of 
Morrill Goddard. Oh, yes, there is one oth- 
er, which we were recently called severely 
to task for omitting in a Merrittlist. It is a 
sequel to The Moon Pool, entitled Conquest 
of the Moon Pool. We hope some reader will 
tell you how to get hold of it. 

And now, with the listings and postcards 
out of the way, let us to the heavier artil- 
lery. Mina McMahon’s letter in the August 
TWS anent the Oregon Vortex, the Mt. 
Baker Ape Men and Napoleon’s Dream Book 
seems to have stirred up considerable in- 
terest. Mrs. McMahon herself has contrib- 
uted a folder from The House of Mystery 
(not the radio program of the same name, 
Johnny Griggs) in Sardine Creek, Oregon, 



apparently the heart of the vortex. 

The folder gives driving directions for 
reaching the Vortex, which is, it says, “a 
spherical field of force, half above the 
ground and half below, and, by reason of 
this, the affected area is a circle.” Apparent- 
ly everything within the area, including 
humans present, leans noticeably toward 
the North Magnetic Pole, even when ap- 
parently standing upright. 

We’d like to see this for ourselves. It is 
located just off route No. 99, between Med- 
ford and Grant’s Pass, Oregon. Further 
comment on the wonders described by Mrs. 
McMahon is provided in — - 

HERE'S THE DOPE 
by Manly Banister 

Dear Ed: You can pull up your proverbial pants now — 
here’s the dope op the Oregon Vortex- 

About fifteen years ago, as I was engaged in pursuit of cer- 
tain literary research on the subiect ot Oregoniana (did you 
ever see such a hell of a word?), I ran across this touted 
“Vortex" in the nature ot certain alluring invitations (advt.) 
that tantalizinglv described a most unusual spot upon the 
face of the earth — a spot about 50 yards or so in diameter, 
more or less (let us be accurate, by all meansl) — in which 
up is down and vice versa, and mules respond gee when you 
yell haw. In short, it was said (in the circular) that normal 
laws of nature reverse themselves and stand up and do tricks 
within the mystic circumference of this vorlex, and the only 
cost was two bits to come and see for yourself. 

Well, sir. I discovered in the course of research, that not 
everybody agreed as to the alleged properties of the so- 
called Vortex. Unscientific observers, having paid their re- 
spective two bitsus for proving the spiel, swore that within 
the circle, they climbed downhill, rolled uphill and stood 
at a slant. It was further claimed that if you hung a plumb 
line within the periphery of the magic circle and another 
without and sighted along the two, the plumb lines hung not 
parallel but crossed each other. 

Scientific elements investigating would not certainly say 
that < any of it was true and largely agreed it to be optical 
illusion. 

Fact of the matter: A tumbledown shack rested on a steep 
side hill. No level territory any place for the observer to get a 
bearing. (Wonder if that same shack is still there? It was in 
lousy shape fifteen years or so ago.) 

Consensus: There seemed to be a slight deviation of the 
perpendicular at that particular spot which might or might 
not be. Could be the aforementioned optical illusion- — it 
could be a large amount of meteoric or magnetic matter 
buried in the mountain that actually drew the gravilic lines 
(?) slightly out of plumb. You paid your money (iwo bits 
in Ibis case) and took your choice. 

The general effect of the Oregon Vortex upon the public 
(until revived by the Lady McMahon) has been a loud 
yawn. In a counlry where it's so mountainous you can’t tell 
up from down anyway, what's the difference? 

As for the "newly located accompanying four fields of 
counter force", never heard of 'em, having been divorced 
from the slate of Oregon, lo, this past decade. 

As for the Mt. Baker Ape Men (as well as the Mt. Shasta 
Ape Men or High Priests of Gung, or something repuled 
to live inside the volcano), everybody in the Oregon 
Country has heard of them. They keep coming back . . . like 
bad pennies. Have you heard of the terrible characters that 
dwell in Ihe waters of Craler Lake? Of the Beeswax Ship? Of 
the massacre at Chinaman's Creek? Or of the time some 
heroic character in a barroom brawl permanently branded his 
opponent on the seat of the pants with a hotstove lid? It’s 
all a part of Oregon History . . . very interesting and not 
very well known. 

Here is something for Lady McM. to try on her extra- 
normal perceptions. When I was very young, my daddy was 
a logger, and as a consequence, l spent a greal deal of 
time in the deep woods of Oregon— where the coyotes howl 
and the wind blows free among the pines. When, on a stormy 
night, the Swedes and Poles and Italians and Germans and 
dozen other nationalities that loggers were in those days, 
gathered in the bunkhouse, I'd hop along io listen ill on 
magnificent yarns of Paul Bunyon. 

They were told with a zest and punch that has never been 
equalled by their highbrow literary counterparts. Those 
stories couched 5n the rough language of thelogging camps, 
were filled with wondrous and stupefying things. And when 
♦he big old Swede spread his arms out wide and solemnly 
stated that Paul’s Big Bfbe Ox, Babe, was so wide between 



142 




the horns it took two men and a boy, taking turns, to see 
ail the way across, I actually believed there had been such 
a critter. 

Since then, though, 1 think I've gained a broader percep- 
tion of things t and have come to realize that there is, to coin 
a phrase, a wide line of demarcation between them things as 
might be and them things as is. 

It wouldn't be nice to end this without saying something 
real, mighty pleasant about your book, Mr. Editor. I buy my 
copy . . . regular. — 1905 Spruce Avenue, Kansas City l, 
Missouri. 

A nice letter, if a bit on the agnostic side, 
Manly. Thanks for writing and sending it 
our way. And now for some further theoriz- 
ing, to wit — 

NO WONDER 
by Emily A. Thompson 

My Dear Editor; Would like to give you soma asked foe 
information in regard to letter from Mina McMahon in your 
Aug. 49 iss. of TWS. 

Tne so called Oregon Vortex was put into the spotlight 
about 20 years ago by the Oregon & Portland newspapers, who 
featured same It centered mostly in a cabin and rts_ im- 
mediate surroundings, where the laws of gravity didn't 
seem to work. Water was alleged to run uphill, and people 
entering the cabin hod a sense of unstability. Several in- 
vestigations were made, as far as I know, and then the cose 
was forgotten. 

As for the Oregon cave monsters, they may have been 
bears the campers encountered, or tramps or prospectors, 
who had neglected to get a shave and haircut for any amount 
if time They or it were described as "Shaggy Brutes." Nr 
wonder the. Indians answered in the negative. They are in- 
clined to disdain fantasy and look upon things as they are. 

The so called "Oraculum Napoleum" or Napoleon's oracle 
are several in number, all differing a little in regard to the 
question ond answers. Doubtless Napoleon consulted one be- 
fore the battle of Waterloo, hence the defeat. 

The method consists in marking five rows of dots and as 
they come out, even or uneven, a sort of pattern is made 
and for each pattern there is an answer. It 5s quite an in- 
tricate, yet easy-to-master method. The only fault is that it 
doesn't work. 

The books were printed in the 'BO's I think. I have one old 
copy coming down through our family. It would fake too 
modi space to describe the exact method, so I'll not try 
to. 

I must differ with the lady as to the ability to soar above 
mundane facts. That's O.K. in fiction, but not so hot in 
describing factual happenings. Doubtless the people de- 
scribing tne Oreqon Vortex and the meetings with cave-men 
or Ape-men haa an inborn tendency to soar above the 
mundane — like in perpetrotinq a hoax. 

I say, lat us have plenty of imaginative Action, but in de- 
scribing facts, let us sticlc to reality. 

As for TWS, it is my favorite mag as is SS. Those mags 
era real good. I am a member of several Stf. clubs and most 
of the members like your mags. 

Js there such a person as an "extra-normal"7 The psychia- 
trists have a name for it. A man or woman may be extremely 
realistic and. ye.t enjoy an Stf. story with keen appreciation. 
Is it not intriguing to think of an "extra -dimensional space'*? 
Yet we must also stick. to. facts in our common paths of fife. 

I think that "Amphiskios" is one of the most intriguing 
stories I ever read and should like to have tha author 
write us a bigger novelet in same style. It is far the bast 
story in thn issue. — 3953 NE. 9th Ave., Portland 12, Ore. 

More grains of salt — or should we say a 
dose of same? And here is more comment 
on the intriguing Northwesters phenomena 
by a shy lady who prefers to hide behind 
an alias. 

SASQUATCH 
by Anne Clare 

Dear Sir: In your last issue I noticed a letter from Mr*. 
McMahon, asking for information _ on the Ape Men as she 
called them. I assume she is referring to the same legendary 
beings the Coast Indians of ft.C. refer to in their legends as 
the Sasquatch. 

These beingi a«e. supposed to be about eight feet tall, 
hairy, something like a bear, dark and shaggy and are sup- 
posed. to inhabit the mountainous country around Harrison 
LaIm tn British Columbia. If I remember correctly the Van- 
couver newspapers have carried articles about them (they 
atti i treated seoffingly as a figment of imagination and eay 
rndfen who reports seeing one is usually assumed to be over- 



imaginative). However there is such a legend and I re- 
member that Frances Dickie wrote a story based cm it 
about fifteen yea-s ago, called "Altar of the Moon" and the 
locale of the story was Harrison. Lake and its surroundings. 
The story was printed in the National Home Monthly, I be- 
lieve, and ran as a serial. 

If you use this letter please give it the Anne Clare alias 
as my family .would laugh if they ever knew I wrote to the 
editor of a science fiction mag. — Squamish, British Columbia. 

We don't know that we approve of your 
family, Anne. But perhaps it is the effect of 
their environment. Does living in Squamish 
make them squeamish or what? It seems 
probable at any rate — at least as probable 
as the Sasquatch. We're inclined to be a 
trifle bearish on the whole business. 

Incidentally, it is not Frances Dickie but 
Francis T. Dickie, who probably knows the 
Canadian West as well if not better than 
any living author. Kidding aside, thanks for 
writing us — and please do so again, family 
notwithstanding. 

A BELIEVER SPEAKS 
by Frederick G. Hehr 

Daar Ed: Ibis time you are in luck. I have been a reader, 
off and .on, of TWS & AS since the early days of, heck — 
what's his name? — in the late Twenties. And I was not he- 
ingenue then. 

You ask about those vortices which dot the Wejh Coast 
and were first noticed near Gold Hill, Oregon, as mentioned 
bv Mina McMahon. Heard first about them during the war, 
when investigation was impossible. Since then l have in- 
vestigated a number of them and learned quite a bit aboul 
them. As an engineer of many years standing I also had the 
equipment to check rather thoroughly on the phenomena. If 
anyone in the East, who has never seen one. tries to tell you 
that it is all done with lines etc, out of plumb, tell him to 
make some tests first as I will describe them.. 

First, these vortices are not unique, as at first thought. Here 
on the West Coast they exist in two parallel lines about 200 
miles apart on which they are spaced about 50 miles from 
one another. Except in certain places, such as the Oiai val- 
ey, they are grouped in pattern* only a few miles apart. 

I know of one in New Jersey and of 3 in England. 

.Mora are probably known to local people, mainly because 
birds avoid them completely. So the one in N. Jersey wo* 
found when the Army tried to set up a unit for carrier 
pigeons on that spot. It just didn't work. The pigeons loet 
all sense of direction and never found their way home again 
even from a hundred yards away. But space-ships seem to 
use those here on the Coast as beacons as too many are soon 
following the one or the other string. 

Th«« spots are usually about 150-200' in diameter. With 
a border which can be located within an inch. Even rf the 
c*rcla seems to jump about a bit once in awhile. Inside this 
arcta many strange effects can be found. The best known 
it where two people stand about six feet apart and the one 
on the left seems to be at least a foot taller than the one 
on the right— assuming that outside both are of the same 
height whilst the platform on which they stand is perfectly 
level- (The greatest error I ever found was a difference in 
altitude between two platforms the thickness of a 50 cent 
piece. 

Others are where a stick balanced on its end and a plumb- 
line alongside show several degrees difference. Where a ball 
thrown straight up comes down 6'-J0‘ away and where one 
has to throw the ball as if against a wall to have it come 
back to the hand. When one walks normally on a level piece 
of ground but on walking backward can break ribs and neck 
rf not ce ught. Where a ball, cigaret or pencil put down on 
a perfectly level plank will rotl with a steady speed in one 
direction only. (Without any acceleration!) Where a line 
••fveyed thru one of these place* may show m Invisible 
dogleg of up to ten feet, driving the surveyor crazy (that's 
how most of them were found). 

And the test I always apply— the pendulum. A 2' penduium 
swinging on a scale will swing normally in one plane. At 180° 
the pendulum will swing at least twice as far on one side 
a« on me other; The scale being of course centered with 
the pendulum -at rest. If one stands stfN and relaxed on cer- 
tain lines one swings back and forth in an invariable rhythm. 
The time of which is different with each vortex. 

Their oriam and purpose? My guess is that an older race, 
probably from another planet, planted certain machinery 
there for their own purpose. I would strongly advise against 
trying to dig it up. One of our A-bombs might 



14 * 




|ppear squiblike against it.- — 900 Son Vincente Boulevard, 
Santa Monica, California. 

Well, we have yet to see a space-ship but 
we hope to before we die. And thanks for 
expanding the vortex business so fully. We 
hope to hear more on this matter. 
Students??????? 

WHO'S GOT CORPUSCLES? 
by Rex Word 

Dear Editor: In regard to five August Issue of THRILLING 
WONDER STORIES, T must say that there was only one good 
story in the issue. The others weren’t too bad, most of tnem 
but they were far below normal. Leinster’s story, surprised 
me in that it dealt with such an old theme — man-into-small- 
ness. I was vary disappointed with FURY FROM LI LL1 PUT. 
The basic idea was old, the supposedly "new" angles seemed 
rehashes themselves and the plot was very dull and trans- 
parent. By transparent 1 mean it was easy to see what was 
going to happen and how. A little of the science theories 
were all right. 

It certainty is difficult to believe that the same man wrote 
this as wrote THINGS PASS BY. Leinster is e versatile man— 
not only in that he can be good sometimes and bad some- 
times but in that he con write several different types of 
story ell with the same skill. Incidentally — end this Is jost 
a good-natured poke at you — be careful what you say when 
you told me, "And Leinster certainly never hod anything to 
do with the Black Bat." # 

I can prove that he did. Of course, the trick is, the Black 
Bat I’m thinking about is not the Black Bat which is cur- 
rently appearing hi BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE. Perhaps you 
didn't know that there was once another Black Bat— back 
in 1933 — and the author was none other than Murray Leinster. 

But to get back to THRILLING WONDER STORIES for 
August I was disappointed with Bradbury’s story. That is 
unusual for generally I start • Bradbury story pretty sure 
that it’ll be no good and as a result I’m not surprised when 
it turns out to do that way. But |his time it was so much 
worse than even 1 thought it would be that I was let down. 
In my opinion, THE NAMING OF NAMES was nothing more 
than a rehash of THE MILLION YEAR PICNIC. 

I don’t believe HI do much commenting on the other poor 
stories la the issue other than to say I was tremendously dis- 
appointed by van Yogt’s story and that MacDonald’s story 
Started out well but the last half fell flat. I do want to 
mention BiU Temple’s yarn, though, and compliment him 
on it. It was the only good story in the mege 2 ine. The idea 
was novel and the development of it very nice. 19 

An interesting sidelight is the possible ramification of 
such a circumstance as was propounded in the end. The man 
knows that his son is the reincarnation — so to Speak — of hie 
philosophic friend — the son of course does not know Ihis. His 
thoughts are like those of Mick but he does not know that he 
is, in a way, Mick. 

On the other hand Mick knew that he was going to be 
killed. He knew also, apparently, that he was going to be"re- 
bom" at the baby, in such a case it would seem that the 
baby would know he was Mick. But there wouldn’t be much 
ase of Mick dying rf that was the way it was. 

See It provide* tome Interesting problems— even a semi- 
paradox of a tort. Bet I Kkad the whole thing. The matter 
©# the detes was surprising — almost enough so to make 
one half-way believe la what Temple Is saying. At any rote, 
it was a good idea and a good story. 

I was interested to e sickened sort of way )n the letter from 
one Dirk Schaeffer from Alma. Michigan, to which the writer 
tried to compare a Bradbury story to a Hamilton story (Come 
to think of it, theft one reason why this issue was poor: no 
Hamilton story]. I can think of nothing more Inane. I was 
pleased at the way yoi told Mm ha was all wet, so to speak. 

Of course, I’m prejudiced on Hamilton because it was hk 
Captain Future stories that introduced me to science-fiction. 
The grand old Captain Future — he*s ridiculed now by a good 
many. Sure, he belongs to another era In science-fiction. But 
In Ml day he was a leader. Just as the old Model T, which 
k scoffed at today, was a magnificent thing in Its day. 

I didn’t expect ycra or anyone else to agree with me whee I 
said in my bat letter that length was necessary tn a story, 
t guess rfl have to do a little retracting of that statement. 
A story can be good and it can be complete and still be 
short, W what I really meant was that most ideas cannot 
be developed completely and thoroughly except when much 
length a glvaa to them. 

You gave 0. Henry as e logical example of a writer who has 
become greet through the use of brevity to his stories. But 
O. Henry didn't write for the idea of the story itself, but for 
the trick ending. Most of Ms short stories were really what 
might be called loan- de-fort* and not stories. A real story 
must contain an idea and an idea, if ft is worth being pre- 
seated, k worth a lot of time being developed to Its fullest 
possibilities. 

Ycm »ld that many a story km be** ruined being padded 
to overiength. That to, at coaiee, tree. Bid the dmea ere 



that it wasn’t worth being written in the first place or that 
it wasn’t really an idea anyway. I’m not saying that short 
stories are no good. All I’m saying is that most ideas should 
be given a lot of length. Temple's story in this issue was a 
good example of a short story with a real idea that was de- 
veloped quite fully in a short space of time. I actually do 
think, however, that added length would have improved this 
Story. 

It »s in the field of music — symphonic music especially— 
that this "rule" holds true almost without exception. I belive 
as does Dr. Howard Hanson, the eminent American composer 
and conductor that f he re are essentially only two types of 
music — warm-blooded music and cold-blooded music. 

The terms are self-explanatory but briefly warm-blooded 
music simply means music which delves deeply into a certain 
emotion, such os love or grief or sadness. In writing warm- 
blooded music the composer puts his heart and loul into his 
composition and it is invariably necessory that he be 
himself concerned at that time with the emotion he is por- 
traying. 

It is also necessary, in my opinion, that the musical ideas 
that go to make up warm-blooded music be given great 
length in which they can be unfolded , end developed com- 
pletely. Because there are always a great number of side- 
lights to any idea that, if the idee is going to be developed 
fully, must be explored and understood, or at least recog- 
nized, if no! themselves developed as is the idea of which 
they are a part. People have disagreed with me on this, but 
I think that a brief glance at facts will bear out my belief 

Tchaikovsky certainly wrote warm-blooded music. His Iasi 
three symphonies tell of a single man’s tragic and futile fight 
against inexorable Fate. They run aboul 45 mlnules each 
and this is considered b long work. The symphonies of Jean 
Sibelius tell of mankind's struggle and ultimate Iriumph 
over Fate. His .first two symphonies run over 40 minutes. 

In his third it is interesting to .note that he purposely^ at- 
tempted to portray the same feeling in the shortest possible 
manner. The third symphony runs only 29 minutes and al- 
though the thematic materiel is necessarity more abrupt and 
the more tangible matters of instruments— the lesser number 
— the work achieves the same atmosphere. 

This js the shortest symphony that actually succeeds it 
portraying what the longer ones do — aside from the un- 
naturally brief Unfinished Symphony of Schubert— that I 
know of As you know, modern composers of symphonies such 
ns Harris, Randall, Creston, etc., are very brief. Their music 
is not warm-blooded. Hanson’s Second Symphony — the Ro- 
mantic — is warm-blooded (as e matter of fact it h from com- 
ments the composer made concerning that symphony that l 
draw that term) and it runs a half-hour. 

Of course, Ihe nine symphonies of Gustav Mahler and Ihe 
nine of Anton Bruckner cannot be surpassed insofar as length 
is concerned and depth of expression. Mahler’s symphonies 
run to such extreme lengths as almost or hour ana a half. I 
think e composer needs this much time to develop fully hk 
ideas. 

Before the era ot "warm-bloodedness" came the. formal 
classicists, Mozart, Haydn and their brethren. And their music 
cannot m a whole be said to be warm-blooded and can as 
a matter of fact be best described as cold-blooded. The 
lengths of their symphonies? Rarely over 20 minutes, often es 
low as 7 minutes. Why7 They didn’t have real ideas to express. 
Their only purpose was to provide a few minutes of pleasant 
listening. Of Mo 2 ort's later symphonies, this is not true. 

So I still soy that, in most cases, length really is necessary 
for — not success — but thoroughness of expression. Your men- 
tions of Ravel end Debussy bear out my statement They 
never delved into them — had they done so, they would not 
hove been impressionists, and their works would have been 
longer. 

It is largely a matter a* you said, of what tho author wonts 
to tackle. But I would say that it would be more accurate 
to call it a matter of what the author can tackle — of what he 
k and what he has the ability to express. 

In closing. I'd like to compliment you on your cover; it 
wae perfect this time* l like that type very much. Also I'd 
(the to *©e more Rog Phillips stories — 305 East Maple Avenue, 
B Segwndo, California. 

Yon, it would seem, run to length in let- 
ten too, Rex. Pardon a certain amount of 
witting but after all — ! 

None other than Murray Leinster him- 
self called us to task on the Black Bat mat- 
ter — he got a laugh out of our erratum! 

Temple’s A DATE TO REMEMBER hit 
ns where we live. We were born within a 
very short time of Mark Twain’s death, 
April 28, 1910, and have always affected to 
believe this fact alone a thorough disproof 
of the reincarnation theory. But all the 
seme— It gives food for thought. Are you 



144 




there, Huck Finn? You can have your old 
paradox and eat it too, Rex — with or with- 
out truffles. 

We’ll soon discover just how dated Cap- 
tain Future is. Curt Newton and his team 
v/ill reappear in novelet form in the Janu- 
ary, 1950, STARTLING STORIES. Yes, 
authored by Edmond Hamilton and entitled 
THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN FUTURE. 
First of a projected series to run regularly 
in SS — or at any rate until the readers 
scream, “Uncle!" 

We still are in the mood to make a horse- 
race out of your strength-through-length 
theories of musical and literary art — it is 
differences of opinion that make the ponies 
run, is it not? 

Very well, if your idea is correct, then 
long pictures should be better than short 
ones — the same for long statues. And the 
Iroquois Long House should be the quintes- 
sence of human architectural achievement. 
Incidentally, we prefer the intellectual ap- 
proach to problems of the intellect, be it 
ever so cold. Your so-called “warm-blood- 
ed" work has always seemed excessively 
juvenile. But so what — it's a horse race, 
isn't it? 

Well, one man's Grieg is another man's 
Katchaturian. Selah and thanks. 

OH, ABSOLUTELY 
by Bill Case 

Dear Editor: l have before me the August issue of TWS, 
AM PH (SKI OS is the only story in it I have so far read 
(bloody but not bad), though i have throughly devoured 
tho oditoriat and letter section. Tis this which prompts me 
to write. 

Firstly I would like.it known that I am chief prophet for 
o thought new in philosophy and I am now and again in- 
trigued by your editorial endeavors. Your interest in tt is 
reflected in the format of TWS and SS. Tho flavor of tho 
si ories, the mood, the type of correspondence in your letter 
deportments— all lend an odd appeal which is hard to de- 
scribe. No other magazines have it. 

1 think the answer is that you use the philosopher's tool, 
synlhcsis, more than the scientist's, analysis. That if, your 
writers deal more often with the vaster forces and entities 
of Space, time and existence in broad sweeping progressions 
rather than with the painstaking breaking down into even 
finer component things which are but components of much 
larger elements themselves. 

This latter attitude is necessary to scientific progress but 
it lends little if anything to philosophic progress (well, hell 
that'* a badly untrue, statement, but maybe you get the 
drift of what I'm driving of). 

As for you, Ed., 1 wish you would toss around the word 
"absolute 1 ' a little less freely than you have been. Referring 
to one of your editorials of a few. issues back (perhaps in SS) 
you refer. to "absolute truth" os if it existed In fact and but 
for the failure of a few national or political groups to recog- 
nizo it as such we would be all living in the mnlenium. Just 
give me a hint, Ed. What is it7 

As o matter of fact, name me just one absolute. I don't 
mean something that you personally accept as an undeniable 
fact, but something which is beyond question a fact under any 
circumstances and for any person. This brings up relativity 
you say? You are so right. And did it ever strike yoo as 
obvious that any acceptable new philosophy must be 
grounded upon some relative principle, tt js ettber fW* or 
fall back on an absolute — which doesn't exist. 

So, insofar as we humans are concerned, there is ao ef- 
ternativo. It ts odd that no workable, believable cyvtem erf 
metaphysics has been evolved oot of this clear-cst situation. 
Such a system, to be. worthy, mmt afford what b required 
of . any acceptable phMosophy — meaning for h u man s and a 
guide for humans. 

In addition, in order to avoid' ftoa error of dogmatism, ft 
roust allow in its structure the realm of the oofWMimen, fie 



super-mundane, the unknown— the amorphous future from 
which we mold and fashion our present. There is no room for 
on absolute here excepting absolute uncertainty, unchang- 
ing chanqe — in other words flux, relativity. 

Well, there's no room in your letter section for the ex- 
position of my position, but the above gives the clue — it 
is the idea from which I start. Every philosophy, every religion 
in the history of this world has started with at least one 
postulate — a given premise for which no proof is possible. 

My philosophy is founded then upon that fact — that certainty 
doss not .exist, that there is no absolute, that everything 
is uncertain, even my philosophy. And if that seems like 
double talk you'd better think again. There is a principle 
of relativity here which, while seeming to undercul the very 
basis of my position, actually gives it the strenqth of an 
absolute — without being an absolute. 

Enough. For any who doubt or would argue or seek clari- 
fication, drop me a line. I am In the market for disciples — 
cohorts rather. 

Oh, that blue fist on thai yellow background! Bergey, thy 
name is madness! 

Also, though I haven’t as yet read the story called FURY 
FROM LILLIPUT, please give us no more of these. No mattler 
how well developed, no matter how well the tale is spun, 
the basic story idea of the human beings reduced in size 
and. their battles for existence in what was once a very 
ordinary world — this idea, I say, is terribly hackneyed. 

Milt Rothman really had you over a barrel on your sci- 
ence, hey? It's refreshing to run smack-dab into someone 
like Rothman, who brooks no hocus-pocus nor doctoring of 
facts (facts as generally conceived, that is). Two of the 
ladies, Miss Gav Motlley and Mina McMahon, have con- 
cocted memorable memos to Ye Ed. Superior. 

May I be different? I hate Bradbury. The juvenile (nay, 
infantile) antics of his characters lead me to suspect that 
Ray's age cannot be more than 12. Or better still, his stuff 
is ghost-written by a 1.2-year-old. Needless to say, if some- 
one else were to submit the kind of drivel he specializes in 
you wouldn't give it a reading beyond page I. 

I well remember the Brett Sterling incident. Was that 
TWS or SS7 How about running all of Bradbury's stuff under 
different pen names for about a year. Then let's see where 
his name ranks in Stfl Sure, he's written some good stuff. The 
records prove it. But there's darned little of it. I wonder 
how much longer his rep will keep him up on that pedestal. 

Good heavens — another Oona and Jickl Wait a minute 
. . . there now, my trusted scissors have Just removed that 
obnoxious section from this otherwise quite presentable 
magazine. Have I seemed overly critical? Don't be fooled. 
TWS and $$ are far and s way the best mags in Stf ever 
published, Keep it up.— 54 Indiana Avenue. Fort Thomas, 

Kentucky- 

You want an absolute — “something which 
is beyond question a fact under any circum- 
stances and for any person"? Well, we can 
think of several, but they are hardly print- 
able functions. Actually, your philosophy 
based upon the immutability of change it- 
self coincides very closely with our own — 
we might almost say absolutely but we 
won’t. 

As few the Bradbury-Sterling issue — It 
was TWS for October, 1948. And we heart- 
ily disagree with you on the subject of RB. 
And don’t you be fooled for a moment. Bill 
— we liked your letter. 

TUPPENCE 

by Gwen Cunningham 

Dear Editor: As your favorita (I hope) subscriber, I am 
throwing in my two-cants' worth again to tell you Leinster 
did a good job on that "Lilli put" story. I'm a sucker for 
Lilliputian themes anyhow, perhaps because I'm not so small 
m I once was, alasl Also, 1 he- artwork on that story was ex- 
ceptionally fine. 

LION OF COMARRE — well, the story was all right. I guess. 
Only it didn’t really get anywhere after all and besides 1 
felt a distinct tack when the only love scenes were between 
tho hero and a very impiobable lion. 

I got a bang out of AMPHISKIOS, all right, and the on% 
fault was that it didn't ring true at the end. It was alt too 

R at and trite — and convenient. Not enough like the facts rf 
fa os I know them. Things just don't turn out that way, I'm 
afraid. But I imagine that is deliberately slipped over who* 
the happy ending is at stake. 

Actually I'm not sure I don't really prefer the happy entf- 
fag. Perhaps ft was the solution that spoiled it all. 
couldn't It have worked itself out some other way, iettw^ 




the four principals win out over terrible odds with the help 
of the thrilling dark eyed warrior (Wowielj? Oh wetl, it was 
a good idea and a good story on Hie whole. I fell for that 
warrior myself — did you know it? (We have a pretty good 
Wea by this time— Ed.) 

FREE LAND was something to read anyhow. Much better 
than biting my nails. 

PROJECT SPACESHIP was a very good and interesting 
idea, esoecially since it is a project that is closer than most 

f ieople realize. Van Vogt is a fine and understanding writer, 
t was easily the mosl honest and worthwhile story in the 
issue, chiefly because vV had tho insight to write a tale thal 
is almost true already. 

And it. doesn't hurt, the story any that he is able to hu- 
manize his characters into understandable people with whom 
we can sympathize even despite their faults. Never, never, 
lose van Vogt. He's too good to lose. 

SALVAGE was fair, A DATE TO REMEMBER good enough. 
And I can't help admitting I enjoyed SK Clair’s NEC) GEO- 
DUCK. I like Oona and Jick just because they’re so different 
and laughable. 

Bradbury's NAMES story was a little off the beam. I like 
his. writing but the story was either too incomplete or too 
eerie to hit the spot with me. But don’t get me wrong. Ray 
is all right and, fhough he has done better. NAMES was 
well worth reading. 

t might add I still adore THE READER SPEAKS. I read 
first and re-read if last. It’s the best letter department in 
the field. On the whole, fellows, I’m proud of you I — 85 19 
MacArthur Boulevard Oakland 5. California. 

Gwen, you’re kidding about the LION and 
AMPHISKIOS — we hope. But if you aren’t 
we shall forthwith order Arthur Clarke to 
have his heroes play love scenes only with 
lionesses hereafter — and if you want those 
othei crumbuns to survive in the MacDonald 
opus, you’ll have to write your own ver- 
sion. But just keep on adoring TRS and all 
will be forgiven. Write us again — and soon. 

WHY AND HOW? 
by W. Paul Ganley 

Dear Editor: I loved THE LAWS OF CHANCE. I lapped 
up MAN IN IRON CAP. I drooled long, happily, over 
BLACK GALAXY. Ditto the POCKET UNIVERSE triology. I 
stood Murray Leinster’s bad shorts and reread his qood ones. 
BUT— 

WHY and HOW did FURY FROM LILLf PUT get into TWS-? 
In fact one might almost inquire — how did it get written? 
Perhaps if it had been lengthened into a novel for $$ and 
had been carefully written, it might just possibly have been 
acceptable. But, I’ll bet fhe only reason Leinster even wrote 
the story was for the check. Hmmm — why does any author 
write a story; . except to provide us hacks with an excuse 
to send a missive to. pore-old-editor-anonymous? 

Luckily, Murray Leinster composed his allotted ’’bad one 
now and then” at a time when the companion novelets were 
above par. 

The finest — perhaps the most well thought-out — was John 
D. MacDonald’s AMPHISKIOS. I expected a bil more than 
I got. in the end, but it was still the best of the lot. Sec- 
ond was THE NAMING OF NAMES, a mood-tale which 
needs no praise. Bradbury’s short does not place alone but 
occupies second position with A DATE TO REMEMBER. The 
latler, if all of the dates are genuine (and I see no reason 
to doubt them), must have required a horrible lot of re- 
search. It was the plot, rather than the style, which placed 
this story — unlike Van Vogt’s novelet which takes fourth, 
and THE LION OF COMARRE, which captures fifth. 

FREE LAND also deserves honorable mention. But holdl 
FURY FROM LILLIPUT does no! exist in the cellar after all 
— that dishonorable position is taken up by one Mrs. M. St. 
Clair, which should slick to detective story writing and 
leave the science-fiction field to AUTHORS. I do not deplore 
her work (huh?), but her plots. SALVAGE may be mentioned 
os not belonging in your mag. 

Which takes care, nicely, of this month's crop of stories. 
Now — 

THE READER (that’s me!) SPEAKS. 

TRS gave me the biggest surprise (and lough) in the last 
few millenia. For the life. of me, I can’t possibly see how 
anyone could see any similarity at all between CONQUEST 
OF TWO WORLDS, and AND THE MOON BE STILL AS 
BRIGHT. 

You can no more compare fhe two than you could THE 
MILL ON THE FLOSS^wilh a "Saint” story. But, surmounting 
this difficulty with blind bull-headedness, what happens? 

Item I. Granted. The plot is one man's fight for what he 
believes right. Isn't that just about the most important fun- 
damental point of almost every adventure story? Look at 
THE MAN IN THE IRON CAF, os one example of a man 



fighting for what he believes right, only to become dis- 
illusioned. I refer, of course, to the leader of fhe Secorify 
board. 

Item 2. I dare you to look into any science-fiction, maga- 
zine without finding a story about a world being invaded 
by Earth's forces (especially if, like aS and TWS. the mag 
prints Bradbury stories). 

Mem 3. The hero’s lifelong friend turns to the enemy. You 
must have been reading American History — remember Bene- 
dict Arnold? 

Item 4. "The ending of both stories »s the defeat ot the 
enemy.” I contend that almost every science-fiction sfory 
embodies such an ending. After all, if it didn't it would be 
more or less of a horror tale. 

I can’t understand why Dick Schaeffer (a synonym lor 
"Richard Shaver"?) chose AND FHE MOON BE STILL AS 
BRIGHT for comparison with World-Wrecker Ham.’s story, 
when there are so many o4her tales which actually ore 
"copies" of A CONQUEST OF TWO WORLDS. Perhaps he 
wanted to prove to us that no matter how different two in- 
dividual stories are, they are still alike in many respects. 
)'m surprised he didn't claim plagiarism because bolh stories 
contained people. — 119 Ward Road. North Tonawanda, New 
York. 

A bit venomous toward Leinster, St. Clair 
and Cartmill, to say nothing of Dick Schaef- 
fer — but then, we were a bit venomous to- 
ward Mr. Schaeffer ourselves, unless mem- 
ory fails. 

SHADES OF LONGFELLOW 
by Don J. Nordizzi 

Dear Editor; Hi-ya, Hiawatha! 

By the shores of Thrilling Wonder, 

‘Neath the Shining, lurid cover, 

Dwells the patient, heckled Ye Ed, 

Son of Science Fiction, Ye-Ed. 

Man of fortitude and sorrow, 

Who withstands Ihe slings and arrows. 

Of outrageous readers' lelters, 

Smiling, smirking, frowning, weeping. 

Gray before his time this stalwart. 

Sits among his guests assembled. 

Guests in form of praise and sniping, 

From the missiles thick about him. 

From the Arts he makes him covers, 

Puts the light side, bright side outside, 

From the mailbag shouts a critic, 

"Put the gey side. Fright side INSIDE!” 

"Put the gadgets, rockets outside. 

"Put the gaudy female inside. 

Spread the suns and planets oul.side, 

"Show the warm Side, bright side insidel" 

Speaks a paying guesl from Kansas, 

"I adore your belles and monsters!” 

Speaks a warrior from the Southland, 

"Get your gaud Dames off the cover!”. 

And he weeps, our strong heart chieftain, 

When he reads, from Sacramento. 

“Your last issue was a stinker I” 

But from Brooklyn comes a ’’Splendidl’* 

Come the bouquets from Altoona, 

Come the brickbats from Chicago. 

Comes the paddy-wagon screaming, 

Takes our glbb'ring sage and copy. 

And he takes the noble MS., 

From its skin he makes him novels. 

Makes them from the start to finish, 

Brave new prophets of tomorrow. 

And he takes the fanzine issue, 

Takes the fan club billet-doux, too, 

And he blows upon their spirit, 

Blows the fan-fare of their spirit. 

And so let us, guests assembled, 

Show our gratitude anon. 

For Ye-Ed, whose constant vigil. 

Gives us fare to feed upon. 

Any questions? — 5107 Delaware Avenue, Los Angeles 41, 
Coliforma. 

Hi-ya, Donald J. Nardizzi 
Iowan (?) from Angels’ City 
Though your rhyme be slightly dizzy 
Dizzy, tizzy, more's the pity, 

From the teepee on Manhattan, 

Twixt the rivers East and Hudson 
Where ye Ed does all his tattin’ 

All his editorial tattin’ 



146 




All his flattin’, Wattin' tattin’ 

Comes an iron-horse, stout and sturdy 
Crossing mountain plain and river, 
Wheezing like a hurdy-gurdy, 

Precious message to deliver 
From the iron-horse to a flivver, 

On which U.S. Mail signs shiver 
Shiver, quiver, jar the liver. 

Sachem Ed thanks Don Nardizzi 
From his 1400 teepee 
Thanks him for he’s very plizzi 
Unto point of being weepy 
For his sympathy with scallions 
Scallions tossed by fan rapscallions 
Evil little fan rapscallionr 
At ye Ed’s — 

Oh, Pleistocene — let’s send the whole 
thing Air Mail! 

HELLO YOURSELF 
by Ruth Weinstein 

Deai editor; Greetings, salutations, also Helloll My hus- 
band says— it I had my way I’d live out in a barn somewhere 
so that my precious collection of science fiction and fantasy 
would nave plenty of room to grow hale, hearty and undis- 
turbed — in our apartment. 

He’s hit the ceiling so often of late (our ceiling has dents 
to prove it) because of the space situation (not outer space 
—lust ordinary prosaic closet space) that I've finally decided 
to dispose of my carefully hoarded mags. 

There ore 131 magazines and books — Merrit's ''Conquest ot 
the Moon Pool” and "Ship ot Ishtar" and Serviss' "Second 
Deluge 1 ’ are included among many others. Will anyone in- 
terested please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope for 
more detailed Information or call EV 4-0140 if in the neigh- 
borhood. 

While I'm ot this let me put in a plug for my favorite 
authors and artists. Virgil Finlay is simply out— way out of 
this world. He's so wonderful! I do portraits myself — but 
there's not even an atomic bit of professional jealousy in- 
volved. He's too good for me to make comparisons. Law- 
rence and Jones are ell right too. 

As for the authors — I’ll take Merritt. Burroughs, Haggard, 
Blackwood, Bradbury, C. L. Moore, Bloch, Chambers and, 
for sheer poetry, give me Frank Owen. All fellow hero-wor- 
shippers will now join me in a resounding amen. — 221 Ten 
Eyck Walk. Brooklyn 6. New York. 

Why not put some fly paper on the ceil- 
ing so that your husband will stick there 
the next time he takes off, Ruth? Then you 
■won’t have to sell your collection. The 
cryptically self-initialled A.L. of Mil- 
waukee 6 should be interested in your “Con- 
quest of the Moon Pool.” Perhaps he will 
send you one of those requested envelopes. 

FLANG AT 

by John Van Couvering 

Inconsistency, quotha I That was the word you fleng at me, 
OUTLANDER #1, and all the other people who had the 
apparent misfortune to be in our "nebulous" organization at 
the time aforementioned literary effort was delivered. 

Listen pot who are you calling sooty? 

In FURt FROM LILLI PUT, seventeen sheets ot befouled 

J iulp inserted in the Aug (or is it Agh?) spasm of TWS, we 
ind that the — ahem — ensmalled objects return to ennor- 
malled state after being enburned or even slightly en- 
loasted. Presuming that the willain had his hand on the shot- 
gun, when towards the last he was twirling the beads of 
sweat on his greasy upper Up and preparing to rain all over 
the hero, why were the shreds of willain (we at this point 
timebind a bit, skipping the gory details) not ennormalled 
along with the gun fragments? 

temster, ordinarily sufficiently sapient, could not cope 
wilh the thought that if W. had his hand on the gun the gun 
would blow up as ils powder grains ennormalled, the 



subsequent fragments ennormalling as the gun blew up, tfw 
Willain shredding as the fragments ennormalled wilh subse- 
quent lack of space for W. to dodge in — where was I? 

Oh, yes— wha hoppen to the expected small mountain ot 
bloody shreds that would be W. after the gun’s malfeasance? 

It is too much to expect that Ihe heat of the explosion 
•nnormal W. or his separated fragments, ves? 

Oh, well, skip it. 

By the time you print this letter (we ignore the implausi- 
bility that it would fail to see the linotype) everyone will 
have forgotten what t complain of. 

But rest assured, they will not have forgotten the OUT- 
LANDER. 

Comforting thought. ' 

Think on this, lout — Alan Hershey, a member of the Out- 
landers, is (or was . . . rnoonfoam, thy name is fandom) 
Director ot the LASFS, the MOST powerful, MOST biggest, 
MOST Null-A. fangroup in this or any other nationalistic 
division 

Six of the Eight are Loslos members, ol Ihe most influen- 
tual; Ackerman was recertify honored with the post of Offi- 
cial Honorary Member and allowed, after sufficient coin had 
flickered about, to write for fhe OUTLANDER #2. 

Think, man, think! 

The power of a group which deigns fo deign Acker men 
an Honorary Member, Mere, is not to be trifled with. 

We accept your kind offer of apologies. 

Lorgnette in hand, the rest of the issue is given passing 
mention. AMPHISKIOS, LION OF COMARRE, the Brad- 
bury story and all else up 1o snuff. The cover was sufficiently 
lurid so that eight people asked to borrow it at school 
thinking it was a new arrival from Tijuana and contained 
feelthy comic strips. 

Remember, I used to slick pins in my playmates to get 
control of (heir dolls. 

Tempt not the wrath of the OUTLANDERI 

And remember, SOUTH GATE IN *581 — T03S8 South Downey. 
Downey, California. 

Okay, we’ll skip the whole thing gladly. 
But tell us — what in Gehenna is an Honor- 
ary Member, Mere? Hereafter, to repair 
any past damage, we shall refer to your so- 
ciety as the Inlander Group — not quite so 
outlandish, n’est-ce pas? 

QUADRUPLY CURSED 
by Tom Pace 

Dear Ed.; H some ot my criticism seems to fall heavily 
»n this letter, it might be because I’m currently suffering 
with four of Civilization's Curses — a summer cold, an ach- 
ing tooth, a hangover and a slight touch of food poison- 
ing — slight like Rocky Graziano's right hook. I can still read, 
though so wh> complain? 

I liked "Fury From Lilliput," as 1 like any fresh and 
interesting Treatment ot a supposedly worn-out theme. And 
I've never run into Ihe gimmick before. I haven’t yel given 
up trying to visualize a Fine at right angles to the accepted 
three dimensions, so this should be right up my alley. At 
least I'm not following in the footsteps of Aelvin, who said 
he could understand nothing that he could not build a 
model ot What a dull character he must have beenl 

Is Murray Leinster a member of the Rocket Society, or of 
any other group with the same aims and goal? The way 
he is always dreaming up drives and fuels, he sounds like 
one. As a psychological detective I'm pretty poorj though. 

While I'm talking about space flight and drives and 
fuels, let's go on to van Vogt's "Project Spaceship." The 
promise of spaceflight, not only in our time but possibly 
within this decade, seems to be inspiring the boys, for more 
and more this type of story is becoming even more of o 
favorite than before — or maybe they just want to get them 
done and solo b^ore the actual first ship makes all "first” 
stories obsolete! 

Too, the biggest element in most of fhe stories seems to 
be the struggle against bureaucracy and lack of interesf . 
I think that reflects the nagging fear most of us feel who 
have dreamed about and talked about space flight for so 
long — that now that we are almost fhere, almost have if. 
someone or something will interfere. 

A war, cold or hot — simple politics — or some olher in- 
sane thing. Maybe a religious movement against itl Crazy 
things they sound like to stop— or delay — something like 
this, but don't bet that Ihey won't. People, very literally, 
are tha craziest monkeys. 

AN of which ia not saying what I started out to say — 
Hi at "Proiect Spaceship” is a very beautiful, simple and 
adult yarn, the like of which I'd admire to see again. 

By the way, about a week ago a man who has been an 
engineer for some afawfeen years, a men respected by 
every one ot his associates as being, if not brilliant, the 
next level below brfHience, asked me how I expected a 
rocket to fly hi space where there’s no air for it to push 
against. 



147 




SomeoLay, I pray, those last nine words will be educated 
out of the -human race. 

After ail, is Newton's Third Law that hard to understand? 

Clarke's "Ltcm of Comar, re" had the beauty and strange- 
ness that he always gets into his stories but was of course 
nowhere near "Against the Fall of Night" in that respect. It 
was good, though — that is to say, I liked it. 1 won't attempt 
to judge it tor you other peasants. 

I also liked MacDonald's "Amphis'rios." The best bit In the 
story was the description of the landscape of Lassa. These 
other-world descriptions throw me. 

And thus we arrive at Bradbury's "The Naming of Names.*' 
It has got past the point where one can refer casually to a 
Bradbury yarn as his "best," though "And the Moon Be 
Still as Bright" is it if there i6 a best. "The Naming of 
Names" will start me looking at Ihe night skies for hours 
on end again — a habit which I am falling into more ftnd 
more often these nights. 

What forested or moun-tained planets, what strangely- 
colored prairies or purple skies, what different seas? What 
am I bid for the greatest dream of all . . . and the punch 
line is that it can come truel 

I don't do a great deal of talking about it, seeming to 
have gotten past the stage where I fee I < it necessary to con- 
vince everyone I meet of spaceflight’s inevitability. Perhaps 
this « because I do feel it inevitable — and I'm concentrat- 
ing my energies on trying to get the sort of technical train- 
ing that wHI enable me to take a hand in it. 

Till then, just about all I can do is read Bradbury and 
his liice and feel very gratefuly that I have them to read. 

And wait. 

Glad to see Cleve Cartmill back, even though I’ve seen 
better by him.' "Salvage" was head and shoulders above 
the average story of its type of a year or two ago. thoudh 
— yeah, were growing up. This story was darned believable. 

These fans are characters, aren't they? Real gone-^ Or 
maybe not quite gone enough, in some coses. Mike Wigod- 
sky « quite a cultured kid. Really grew up fast, didn't he? 

Where'd the guys get all this vinegar this issue? Ward., 
Alton, Miss Mcrf Hey, Charmichael, Connor — ©olitles? Left- 
wingers? What are they 7 Mm mm. 

Speaking of Debussy, which I'm *ure someone was — A 
was listening in at a jam-session-, jazz concert the other eve- 
ning when some character, obviously slumming, requested 
Clair da lune. The guy in charge of things was. Hollo lay- 
land, a friend (I believe) of the late Bunny Berigan and • 
nice touch on drums. 

One of Layland's obsessions is convincing people that 
jazz musicians like to play tt sweet, too . . . they ju*t 
it to be clear and worth something. He was more or leu 
miffed because the highbrowed and low mantolitied hecWor 
didn't believe the boys could plav Clair de Lune — so they 
did j«t that, 

Now, i know what you're thinking, and I would two 
been the first to regurgitate if they had hashed it, because 
that just isn't a number you jazz. They didn't try. No one :»n 
his right mind would compare a "Dixie group's fob on Clrnr 
de Lune with the kind of orchestration that it deserves, but 
these boys were all accomplished musicians . (and not a 
beret in the bundh) with a feeling for something good— no 
matter where or when. They kept it true to line, and did 
an impressive job on it, considering. 

Of course they got more applause when they took on 
'That's Aplenty, 1 ' but then they were better equipped for 
that. They 'had Bud Satan t re *l name unknown to -me;) sit- 
ting in on piano and once on drums — ever heard of him? 

All in .all, it was a nice evening You shoiffda been there, 
Ed. Enough is enough. Is enough, Mtss Stein would add. 
Is too much.— Brewster, Florida. 

Okay, Tom, belated sympathies on your 
sour shape. That was quite a paean to some- 
thing' or other you came up with. Amphis- 
kios the Beautiful perhaps? As for Bud 
Satan, he is just a name to us and Bunny, 
alas, just a memory — but what a memory. 
We used to hear him tee off in the Famous 
Door with a small combination — Joe Bush- 
kin on piano and PeeWee Russell on clar- 
inet — to say nothing of Eddie Condon on 
the pork chop and the late Dave Tuff on the 
drums. It was good listening, mighty good 
listening. 

OH-OH— WE WAS WRONG 
by Perdita Lilly 

Dear Ed: Thanks for publishing rxty latter la your 
issue. First time it ever happened to me end 1 got a big 
kick out of it. First off, though, I gotta mention tha fact 



that you printed my address wrong, so if anybody wri.’te 
to me and didn't get on answer, that was probably the 
reason. 

Pretty swell issue this month. Coupla sfories were really 
good and none were too bad. I liked FURY FROM LILL1- 
PUT pretty well and, by Ihe way, whal's the name of the 
artist who did the illustrations? 

Although LION OF COMARRE started off well if ended 
up without much of a plot. Clarke seemed more interested 
in describing the wonders of Comarre. AMPHISKIOS had 
one of the most fascinating titles I have ever seen. 

Next story that .1 really liked was DATE TO REMEMBER. 
For some reason it fascinated me although I guessed that 
Graham© was a Martian as soon as he started talking aboui 
it. 

Well, I see you've, got goold ole Oona and Jick back 
again (to be spoke in a sarcastic tone). What'd you have 
to waste Finlay on them for and, by the way, what fa heck 
happent to Virgle this month7 Only ona little illo. 

You know, Bradbury's a good quy but he's in a rut— but 
def. .His stories are usually gooa and always different but 
I'd like to see a change of subject occasionally. NAMING 
OF NAMES was a great story, though, the best in. the ish. I 
like the psychological twist he pub in ell bis stories. 

In conclusion — 

Bergey covers 
Just the same 
Big strong man 
And sexy dame 
Color glaring 
Startling bright 
Fold the cover 
Outta sight. 

— MI49 Monte Vista, Dgtroft Michigan. 

We hope that address is on the proverbial 
beam, Perdita. As for the rest — 

You're a scoffer 
What a shame 
Though we offer 
Mags aflame 
Most gals like 

Their men with muscle 
And the lads 
Decry the bustle. 

So what is poor Bergey to do ? Oh, no — 
not that ! 

NEW LOOK? 
by Bill Seorles 

Dear Editor: Whatiapened? You get the New Look finally 
or surnpin? The cover and style is different (no back- 
ground), the print looks different^ even you sound different. 
Aird stupider, flab Rivenes said in his comment on "Hiero- 
phants"— "any relation to Ella?" and you said, "Who's Ella 
—Ella Fitzgerald, perhaps?" Most puns catch me cold, but 
even f goit that one. That brilliant slip was the main rea- 
son 1 wrote. I ju6t -had to enlighten you. 

T)dt now that I'm here, I may os well comment on the 
Aug. ish. J llkod the cover. The colors were beautifully 
used. "Fury from Lilliput" was an old idea, but it was ex- 
ceptionally well handled. "Lion of Comarre" was up 1o 
the standard of “Against the Fall of Nite." It and "Am- 
phiskios 1 ' (beautifully written) beat the novel. vV's story 
certainly did nothing to change my opinion of him. "The 
Naming of Names" was better than a lot of Bradbury we've 
had lately. 

I wish those people who want to get rid of the Ritlerbushes 
would shot up. It's different from .most S-F, but just because 
some people don't understand or like it, is no reason to elim- 
inate r+. 

Now, here comes a rather original statement to make. I 
like Bergey. He has sort of a one-track mind as to sub- 
jects. but what he does do is good. Could it be possible that 
Bergey is sort of a collective pseudonym like Sterling? His 
style does change rather abruptly now and then. 

Editor why are you so secretive?. II would be nice to 
know whom we’re writing to. Gnaedinger and R.A.P. aren't 
anonymous. They're not as chummy, but fhey're not name- 
less either. 

Oh, yes, 1 forgot to say "A Date to -Remember" was a 
ditly. It must have taken -some research.— B27 Nathan Hole 
Rood, West Palm Beach, Florida. 

To you from Stupider — quite a lot of stuff 
to answer, Bill. The new look is accounted 




for by a change in printers. We remain the 
same, as does Bergey. He has done all but 
one or two of our stf covers in the past five 
years. Last non-Bergey we can recall was 
for the issue that had Leinster’s THE 
LAWS OF CHANCE— and that was SS. As 
for the Temple story research problem, 
about all it needed was a good almanac. 

We remain more or less anonymous, but 
any of the fan groups should be able to en- 
lighten you as to our identity. 

WHO'S A RADICAL? 
by George David Mills 

Dear Edilor: 

That radical changes in Thrilling appeared 
In the latest issue *tis true 
In analysis aMer viewing all facts 
’Tis almost too good to be true. 

Small type in letters, more to be found, 

Gems from De Pina and others on view 
*T*s to be hoped that the quality will stay at 
this rate 

But I fear that such issues will be too few. 

Oh me and oh my and a lack V day day 
Is it possible that this choice bit will see print 
But on view or no this bit is found 
To the editor of Tnrilling it will be sent. 

Yours for better nonsense — Ridgway, Illinois. 

Gad’s truth in laudation sings George 
David Mills 

Of changes in format and type 

To stories and letter and pictures he thrills 

So he writes us in metrical tripe. 

But after he gives us a pat on the back 
So hard that his verse makes a dent 
He shovels up really implausible hack 
And seeks to make "print” rhmye with 
"sent.” 

It is we who now give vent to the lacka- 
day and long for a miseracordia with which 
to deliver an anapaestic coup de gras. 

CHAOS AND UNSANITY 
by Alfred Kobos 

Dear Editor: I write this letter because t would like to 
find out something. I have been reading science fiction for 
several years, and have been impressed by the remarkable 
work Ihe readers have done in forming clubs, publishing 
papers, having nation-wide meetings and so forth. 

However, it seems to me that among all the readers 
there must be a few who are not content with only reading 
science fiction and ignorinq the problems that it presents. 
Consider the civilization of the - future usually depicted. Is 
the present state of the world any indication of a trend 
toward a saner life, a happier world? Are the basic prob- 
lems of science and sociology today to be ignored and un- 
answered? 

It is quite a cliche to soy, “The time to build a tomorrow 
it today.” Neverlheless ti is quite true. But a few thousand 
people will not accomplish much — separately. I am con- 
vinced that among the people who are reading this letter 
there must be someone who is dissatisfied wilh the general 
chaos and unsanity of today and who could do something, 
but has despaired of ever doing anything constructive 
because of general apathy and inertia. 

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said, “All of us are 
standing in the mud but some of us are looking to the 
stars.” It is these few people whom I want to contact, par- 
ticularly young people whose imaginations have not been 
sfunned by a barrage of mass-production semantics. 

I want ideas — original ideas from open minds — on any - 



subject, non-Arisiotehanism, World Government, Existen- 
tialism. Relativity Literature, to prove that readers can 
think ano can do something toward shaping a beffer future. 

I would also appreciate criticism, constructive or other- 
wise, as long as it is not dogmatic. With a small nucleus 
such as this I would like to find out whether the doom so 
often prophesied by the authors in s-f cannot be averted. 

I have nothing to recommend myself, except that I am an 
idealist who is convinced this is not the best of all possible 
worlds and that things such as human nature can be changed 
for the better and +hat someone has to start somewhere, 
sometime. 

If there already exists such a group, I would be very 
glad to hear any information about it. I decided to write 
to TWS principally because ot the editorials, which seem 
to show a spirit that does not make this letter sound too 
ridiculous. — 30 Sauauoit Street. New York Mills, New York. 

It is far from ridiculous, Alfred Kobos. 
We hope you make the contacts you want — 
some of them anyway — from the publica- 
tion of this letter and that you will keep us 
in touch with whatever happens. Who on 
earth believes this to be the best of all pos- 
sible worlds anyway? It’s a pretty make- 
shift affair where man is concerned — and 
that is putting it mildly. 

SECOND GENERATION FAN 

by Mrs. C. J. Petersen 

Dear Editor: Dad's science fiction mags have been de- 
voured by me ever since I could read but never have I 
found time to write to editors. Now that l have a two- 
week-old Son to take care of I finally have found time to 
say, “Thanks for a number of years of fine reading.” 

Of course, there have been quite a few stories I didn't 
care tor but many more that I did. Your August issue was 
quite a novelty — in five out of eight stories tne main char- 
acters were married — and in two women were by-passed 
completely. Nice for a change. 

1 shall not rate the stories as I realize that my opinion 
is oniy mine and the rest of your readers, mayhap, are in- 
terested in other types of stories. As for covers may I 
quote a doctor friend — woman is just a woman but a 
well-dressed woman can surely raise mole temperature*." 
The cover women ore anything but dressed as a rule — 
need I soy more? (then too, tastes differ here). — 3I7 1 /? Wood 
Street, De Kalb. Illinois. 

Thanks, Mrs. Petersen — and may your 
baby develop into a science fiction author 
or artist to the queen’s taste. Write us 
again when you have a moment between 
bottles. 

FANOVA 

by William N. Austin 

Dear Sir: My interest in fanciful fiction heightened to a 
point of actual enthusiasm only a few months ago, so it »• 
not surprising that, despite all the enjoyment derived I find 
myself constantly perplexed by petty incongruities end vague 
consternation. 

For instance, was it your company that published the 
defunct^ STRANGE STORIES? I secured several issues re- 
cently, including the last issue (Feb., 1941), and was pleased 
with most of the stories included, authors Price, Colter, 
Derleth, Quinn, Burks, et at, usually affording pleasure to a 
marked degree. And “Will Garin" — a house pseudonym, 
perchance? "Hate's Handiwork" could easily be the work 
of Eli Colter, who had another story published in the same 
issue. 

Seems a shame that a good magazine like STRANGE 
STORIES, exists no longer, whereas several contemporary 
publications, reputedly devoted to the sundry manifesta- 
tions of fantasy, continue to thrive despite consistently in- 
ferior yarns. 

Howbeit, your two contributions to fantastic realms, TWS 
and SS, continue to Improve with each issue, especially 
during the past two year), ieavinq little room for criticism 
of individual effort) and practically none tn policy. We get 
quality and quantity — IWastrofion*. edequote to excellent — 
Interesting letter co le wi * r evival* in SS. No complaints 
from this quarter, except. . ♦ , 

Well, why not a revival of STRANGE 5TORIES7 Thpre are 
a number of writon turning out fair science- fiction who 
excel m fantasy, ptraight, Ku more ns or supernatural. There 




existed a magazine a few years ago, now unknown, devoted 
to high quality fantasy, including full-length novels. If the 
laws of supply and demand exemplify anything, the dollar- 
to-three dollars requested for copies six to ten years old 
ought to offer a solid enough cue for some_ hard-headed 
financier — that a tangible profit is to be derived, thereby 
enabling future Merritfs, Klines, Burroughs, etc., to pay for 
their groceries too. 

I am interested in forimng a fantasv fan club for Washing- 
ton State fans and will be pleased to hear from fellow- 
enthusiasts in the Evergreen state. — 3317 West 67th Street, 
Seattle 7, Washington. 

You’ll be hearing — plenty. Especially 
since Seattle is a fan hotbed at present, as 
is the entire Northwest. Are you there, 
Don Day? 

As for STRANGE STORIES, which 
came and went several ,r ears ago, we appre- 
ciate your kind comments — but no revival 
is currently planned. 

Will Garth was and is still occasionally a 
house name. In this case some of the stories 
were written by Henry Kuttner, some by 
Charles S. Strong, some by others. The Eli 
Coulter thing doubtful. Luck with your fan- 
association. 



' off at the scientr-squibsi Bat (HU nothing to bora fangs 

over. 

Do I defect an overtone of hysteria In yo Editor's reply 
to Max Alton's letter? See how considerate I am? I never 
even mentioned the cover (until now 'course) to save your 
fingernails wear and tear. And see here, Frying Penney the 
OUTLANDER is the biggest humorzine to hit your mailbox 
in ages. Don't be so green-eyed about if! — 4 Spring Street, 
Lubec, Maine. 

You’ll find van Vogt, done to the favor 
and flavor of an stf Escoffier, in the lead 
spot of the January SS — THE SHADOW 
MEN is, to our way of thinking, one of his 
finest novels to date. As for the hysteria 
— you’re so right. Blame us? 

Incidentally, anent a number of com- 
ments that have come in regarding the 
changed appearance of TWS — nobody has 
seemed to notice that our pages have been 
enlarged a half-inch in length, so that now 
we can print more material per issue than 
before. A half-inch of extra type per col- 
umn mounts up to quite a sizable increase 
in reading matter. This ought to please 
you! 



THAT NEW LOOK AGAIN 
by Ed Cox 

Dear Sam: Well, I see we have a new look around Kara 
(there being the August TWS). Looks a bit pulpier, print 
overinked in places (but easy on the eyes when just right) 
and a drastically ensmalled fnmtn, where'd that word come 
from?) TRS print case. 

But the most important thing in the mag is unchonged, 
the story quality. Let's fear into 'em l 

FURY FROM LILLI PUT. A problem is serf up and solved. 
That is the basic requirement of any . Leinster yarn and 
was worked out to the fullest in this story — not very enter- 
tainingly either. I won’t say that the story wasn’t worth 
reading bet 1^ wish Will would liven up his stories. Inject 
tome of the life that a certain Leigh Brackett is so adept 
at getting into her stories. 

THE LION OF COMARRE. This story shows full well what 
a great contemporary Clarke is becoming. His star is rap- 
idly rising high in tne firmament of stfantasy authors. This 
dian't quite cafch the nostalgia of some of his shorter 
work nor the wistful far-future atmosphere of AGAINST THE 
FALL OF NIGHT btrt still was very good. It calls for a 
sequel doesn't it? The transition should be very good story 
material. 

AMPHISKIOS. John 0. MacDonald isn't bad at super- 
ecience in his own particular way and this is a good exam- 
pi® of him at his best. 

PROJECT SPACESHIP. This is second-rate van Vogt. Seems 
that an atmosphere of "let-downness" pervades this story. 
How about getting the real van Vogt science fiction, more 
like his WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER work? How about fr? 

FREE LAND. This inspires no comment. 

SALVAGE. Enjoyable bat not memorable. Most signifi- 
cant it the fact that yoe have Cartmill. Now make Mm pro- 
doc el 

A DATE TO REMEMBER. This « anthology materiaJi I 
suspected the outcome to a certain degree but not enough 
fro "spoil" the story. Truly a unique idea {to my knowledge) 
and well presented. Temple is stepping right along. Inspires 
me to want to read more by him. 

THE NEO-GEODUCK. Hasn’t she forgotten this series 
yet? After her well-done THE SACRED MARTIAN PIG, this 
is a disappointment. But it sells and that's what she's after. 

THE NAMING OF NAMES. At I .istt Another good, Brad- 
bury Mars-yarn. Still not up to the high level of his first 
stories on this theme but an improvement over those rlomp- 
stories. Where's that novel? 

Astarita has the consistently best work In this issue, 
Finlay average and Stevens fair. Seems as if the art needs 
a shot in tha arm if you ask me (ya^ I know yo« weren't). 

Next issue certainly is mouth-watering (in a literary way). 
West is back huh? Hope he can adjust as well as Burks and 
some of the others. Brackettl Thank you, my friend, thawk- 
youthankyouthankyoul And de Campl Hope ha stretched o*t 
and really got to work in this enlarged TWS. 

What's going on in the "back room" buti session this 
time7 I'm glad to know de Pina is going to write agate. 
Latch onto him I Rex Ward back toof You're wrong about 
Beni. MHIer being Kuttner pal. And wh$fs wrong wtth 
Fred Brown? Won t start feeding with anybody. Not oven 
Collie Clements. And, gad (aw} Mfffry Rothman teeing 



NAVY MED 

by H. S. Weatherby, HMl 

Dear Editor: May I writ* Ki THRILUN® WONDER 
STORIES, voicing my humble opinions — telling of some fan- 
zines, so far ignored? 

Although Cm somewhat advanced in the years and the 
Navy, science-fiction is new for this sailor, howsoever medi- 
cally educated. Yet I thought John D. MacDonald's AMPHIS- 
KIOS was tops for characterization and driving interest. His 
atmosphere, backgrounds and italicized suspense- portions 
were excellently conceived. I have read Mr. MacDonald in 
STARTLING STORIES and would en|oy more stories by this 
top-ranking author. 

Murray Leinster's FU RY FROM LILLI PUT took second 
place but that's no dishonor in Such top-drawer copy. I 
nwpa that Leinster, an artist of fantasy, will continue to 
scribe interesting novels. 

Why should Ray Bradbury be placed at tha back of the 
magazine? I think he is tops. The NAMING OF NAMES 
certainly had authentic atmosphere, clear-cut style and on 
all-important theme. Give the Bradbury a chance, will you7 

William F. Temple knows his psychiatry in A DATE TO 
REMEMBER. Congratulations, Temple, it's a well-dona short. 

FREE LAND and SALVAGE run hand-in-hand, both of 
them being quite good. I place St. Clair's NEO-GEODUCK 
at tha bottom, where tha darned thing belongs. — District 
Medical Office, Great Lakes, III. 

Bradbury's landing in the back of the 
mag is a matter of make-up luck, not intent 
to put him at the rear of any credit parade. 
Outside of lead novelets and novels all 
stories are put where their layouts and 
page lengths will fit— merit has nothing 
whatever to do with it That settled, thanks 
for writing us and please do so again soon. 

WHAT'S WITH LIDDLE CHUM? 
by Lin Carter 

Mina liddle chum: Well now, it's been quite awhile since 
last I laid ^ forefinger to typer key and sent another witty 
epistle on its destined way to tha hallowed precincts of 10 
E. 40th St. and ffj’ ola urge has bit me again. Rather nice 
cover this time, in a little different style at least. Didn't 
care for the color s c hem e though, bert l snppose it's here 
to stay. 

I shalf refrain from making any comments ox Leinster's 
novel, except to say that tha same weary ole plot has bean 
beaten into the grown d, year after year, by Cummings end 
other hacks. St ev ens' fllvetialrons br i ghte n e d op the thing, 
though. 

I went info "Tha Lion of Coma ire," bright-eyed and 
fresh, hoping to find a yam buftt around some mythologf- 



ISO 




cal or historical character like Richard Piantaganet, the 
Lion of England. And whut do I find, but that the dopey 
thing was acluolly about a lion. Sir Editor, you are break- 
ing my illusions. _ Fine, poetic title; I'm sorry the story 
didn't live up to it. 

As tor "Project Spaceship," it's been my opinion for years 
that van Vogt couldn't write a poor story even if he tried. 
’’The Naming of Names" was a little better than Brad- 
bury’s recent stuff. I wish he would write about some other 
planet. Mars. Mars. Mars. Marsmars marsmars gahhhhhhhhhl 
Whut's wrong with Venus? 

Ole lev seemed rather short this time, or was it the new 
type? Mike Wigodsky, Rex Ward, Wilkie Connor and Bul- 
lock had some nice stuff. Ward brought up a point that has 
been one of my favorite arguments. Namely, that the oppo- 
site sex is not fundamentally creative — in an artistic sense 
?hat is, not biological. Look at the field of painting. Who 
do you think of offhand? Raphael, Da Vinci, Holbein, Corot, 
Matisse, Picasso, Dali, and so forth. No women. Poetry? 
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Coler- 
idge, Poe, Benet, Eliot. Again, no women. And it's about 
the same way with prose, sculpture and the minor arts. 
And yet the Common Man looks down on poetry and art 
ts being effeminate and on th« poet and artist as perhaps 
b little queer. Funny, isn't it? — 1734 Newark St., So., at. 
Petersburg, Fla. 

You’re asking for it, bub, when you deny 
women a place in the so-called creative arts. 
According to many theorists the only rea- 
son we have had so comparatively few wom- 
en in painting, sculpture, music, literature 
and poetry is because, until freed from 
housework and childrearing drudgery by 
dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, laundromats, 
diaper services, frozen foods and the like, 
women simply had no time t. master them. 

Yet you are wrong to count the girls out. 
Whenever they have had opportunity to ex- 
press themselves, they have stepped right 
up and done so, from the poems of Sappho 
and the skilled creators of the Bayeux tap- 
estries — through Elizabeth Barrett Brown- 
ing, the Brontes, George Eliot, Mesdames 
leBrun, Greuze and Bonheur, not to men- 
tion Chaminade— to Georgia O’Keeffe, Mal- 
vina Hoffman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, 
Virginia Wolfe, Edith Wharton, Lillian Hel- 
man, Willa Cather, Isaac Dinesen, Kay 
Swift. And that is just a few. Save in seri- 
ous musical composition the girls are in 
there — and very few men have been truly 
great composers. 

As for the views of the so-called Common 
Man (whatever that is) Philip Wylie pinned 
him to card neatly when, in Generation of 
Vipers, he subheaded his chapter on same 
"The Backside of Humanity.” 

BETTER LATE THAN EVER 
by Roberta Hesse 

Dear Sir: This is a rather late missive, I know, but upon 
a belated perusual of the readers section of TWS I ran 
upon a letler by one "Clements" (distinguished from Jack 
Clements by caps. It seems that F, Clements, while at- 
tempting to bite off the head of a fellow fan, missed and 
gnashed boih shift keys off the typewriter). 

Well, Mr. Clements wonts to know what fern fannes are 
escaping from. Maybe my own experiences will help Mr. 
Clements understand. On one side of our home is a family 
of Communists. To escape from the endless clash of ham- 
mers and sickles I turn to TWS t only to find it in the throes 
of a Communistic battle in which everyone seems to be on 
the same side. Why the fight? 

On the other side is a neighbor who practices body build- 
ing and likes loud march music. Trying to shut the blaring 
strains of "The Sform King” from my ears and dodging 



stray bar bells I pick up TWS. One glance at the cover 
and VOOMI we're back to loudness^ again. Also, despite 
the fact that I am two years her senior, I cannot seem to 
paint any better than Grandma Moses. So you see, Mr. 
Clements, we femmes are merely trying to escape from the 
everyday down-to-earth problems of life, the same as every 
male reader. 

I would consider A DATE TO REMEMBER the be*i tiory 
this issue. Quite thoughl-provolcing. 

Next was THE NAMING OF NAMES. Really a beautiful 
thought when you get right down to it. After the second 
reading the chill sort of wears off. 

I'm sorry I couldn’t like FURY FROM ULLIPUT. But I will 
not pan it. I cannot pan anything unless I car» do better. 

I imagine Leinster’s novelet was quite all right for those 
readers who like that type of reading. 

PROJECT SPACESHIP can only be enjoyed to its fullest 
if you first read that current fantasy novel ZOTZI Lovable 
red tape. 

And now comes a confession. I was one of those who 
wailed for Finlay in TWS and SS. Now he is here and, frankly, 

I am rather disappointed. Stripped of his fantasy material 
Finlay loses some of his Style. His perspective, drawing and 
composition are still wonderful but there is something of 
the old Finlay lacking. It is enough to make a Finlay fan 
weep great big tears, You just can’t please us, can you7 
Looking forward to your next issue of TWS. — 3208 25th Street 
S.E., Canton, Ohio. 

No, but we’re still in there trying, Rob- 
erta. Sorry *bout that Commie business — 
we won’t let It happen again, we hope. Those 
so-and-sos do keep coming out of the wood- 
work, however. Happy bar bells. 

EVERYTHING'S JAKES 
by John W. Jakes 

Dear Editor: Just finished the August ish. New printing. . 
no? Net bad. But let’s have done with nauseating light 
conversation. Here are the stories the way I liked Ihem. 

1. THE NAMING OF NAMES by RB. Magnificentl There if 
nothing that can be criticized. The writing was superb. Ray's 
word-pictures were the best he has ever done, and all fl» 
way through this story j had a feeling that only strikes me 
once in a while, reading stf — This is not far-fetched im- 
agination. This really could heppeni I know that Groff 
Conklin in his Best of Stf says science-fiction, differentiated 
from fantasy, is supposed to be able to happen, bul most 
stf stories don’t give me that feeling. This one did. Bravol 

2. THE LION OF COMARRE. Not os good as "Against The 
Fall of Night." perhaps because former was book-length, thif 
still rates very high. Clarke’s world of tomorrow, where 
science is scorned, is an original twist and his use of it 
makes for interesting reading. Besides that I especially en- 
joyed the characterization of Leo the Lion. Dunno why. Maybe 
I’m on my way to second childhood. 

3. THE NEO-GEODUCK. This comes third because I enjoyed \ 
St. Clair's little devices, styles and habits of the future. The 
story was routine but the descriptions of the characteristics 
of tomorrow make it delightful reading. As a Sunday supple- 
ment book reviewer might say, "Good summer hammock 
reading." 

4. A DATE TO REMEMBER. Fourth because Mr. Temple had | 
the ingenuity to take an old saw such as this series of dates 
and make it into a plausible and highly readable story. 

5. AHPHISKIOS. John D. MacDonald is coming up in tft , 
stf world. First read him in detective pulps but now he has I 
moved over to become a competent writer of our beloved i 
science-fiction. Note I say competent — not great or any such 
other superlative. MacDonald's stories are always interesting 
and fresh in idea but they lack the creative imagination of 
Kuffner or Brackett or Heinlein or Bradbury. MacDonald is a 
good technician, also a fairly good writer. Technical writing 
alone is pretty bad but with a Tittle ability a writer knowing 
the mechanical construction of a story can do OK. The story 
was rather interesting. I liked it and I hope John D. Mac- 
Donald will someday soon become a stf great. I think he's 
got it in him. 

A. SALVAGE. Cleve Cartmill's little number was an enter- 
taining and pleasant bit of easily forgettable space opera. 
Not particularly brilliant it held the attention fairly well. ‘ 
Good filler. 

7. FREE LAND Not bad,, but falls pretty low on the list., 
The idea was rather interesting but was spoiled by unimagina- 
tive and colorless writing. 

0. PROJECT SPACESHIP. Oh-oh. Get set for a shock. I ex- 
pect rocks, bombs and other assorted mayhem to smother 
me but I mu$+ make this statement: I have never particularly 
liked A. E. van Vogt and I still don’t. Critics say he's the 
greatest author of stf but I don’t think so. This story was 
too short, as all his latest efforts but WEAPON SHOPS OF 
ISHER have been. He is better, I must admit, at long stories, 
but these little "quickies" don’t even grasp a bit of tha 
color that made World of Null-A and The Weapon Shops in- 
teresting. He seems to be doing these shorties to make a 




Here comes another blast. I didn't like FURY FROM 
LILLI PUT. And I don't like Leinster effher, although he's 
another one of the greats. The story idea was old but well 
handled. It is the characterization! Why, ed, oh why, must 
the hero always meet, just by chance, the one girl for him 
in the particular stofy we happen to be reading. Each Lein- 
ster story seems to be a pairing off of a male and a female 
whose little number tags or whatever match, so that they are 
meant for each other. The hero always burns with rage when 
someone hurts his girl-friend. He sobs and moans and worries 
in a false fashion. Conflict is the essence of a good story, 
and < just. because love is secondary does not mean it has to 
b« idyllicelly handled. For heaven's sake let's not have any 
more sweet virtuous things meeting handsome youths and 
immediately falling in love. It gets awfully tiresome. 

Now with these foul epithets off my chest, here's a run-down 
of the pics. 

FURY FROM LILLI PUT. Good. Especially p. 15. 

THE LION OF COMARRE. Marvelous I This Astarits (I see 
he's signing his name now) is really good. Let's hove more. 

AMPHISKIOS. Another Astarita. Same comment as above. 
MORE! 

FREE LAND. This looks like Astarita once more? U it? 
Anyway, pretty good 

PROJECT SPACESHIP. Excellent. 

SALVAGE. Not too good. 

A DATE TO REMEMBER. Noo . . . I hate Napoli. Dunno 
why. Ah well . . . 

THE NEO-GEODUCK. Good-uck. Good ol Virgil. 

NAMING OF NAMES. Hooray once more for oor boy A. 

Well now that I’m through tearing you apart, let ms ai* 
nrs you that I will continue reading TWS despite the sting- 
ing common ft I make. Looking forward to the next ish with 
Kuttner and Brackett back. Also de Camp. Good for Sprague. 
He's one of my favorites. See you when The Hibited Mon 
follows The Lure of Polaris to The Lake of The Gone Forever 
to engage tn a Cold War about a dispute over High Jack 
and Oame. Farewelll — 5300 Glenwood Avenue, Chicago 40, 
iHinois. 

MacDonald has already arrived — editori- 
ally at any rate. And when you read 
his magnificent novelet JOURNEY FOR 
SEVEN, currently scheduled for the April, 
1960, issue of TWS, you’ll agree. He is also 
at work on a novel for SS which may appear 
even sooner — and which should serve to 
establish him. That lad can write ! 

As for van Vogt, see the January SS as 
already mentioned. His novel there will be 
fine. As for your stinging comments, broth- 
er Jakes — or is it Jukes? — they sting all 
right and in spades. Seriously, keep the let- 
ters coming. 

FLORA 

by Bob Farnbom 

Dear Ed: I have iusl finished reading fhe August THRILLING 
WONDER STORIES and have to thank you once again for o 
perfect issue . . . even the cover pic was OK, but just 
of curiosity, is that a bath towel he is wearing? 

FURY FROM LILLI PUT — Kuttner was about the best t've 
Been in some time, but can you call it strictly STF? 

SALVAGE— Cl eve Cartmill is the first bit of real humor 
that has come to the pages of either TWS or STARTLING 
STORIES in a too-long time. I got a real belly-laugh out of 
that last linel 

The July STARTLING STORIES carried a letter (I missed 
that ish) written by me, as I am told, as Sec .-Treasurer of 
Science Fiction-International. I hove not been connected wffh 
that or any other fan club for over a year. 

If anyone has a spare copy of July STARTLING, Pd (Ike 
to moke a trade with them. 

THE READER SPEAKS was jammed with many thought-pro- 
voking letters and while I agreed with many there worn one 
or two that made me see red, to I'll play cafe and mete no 
comment other than to say I enjoyed reading it. 

All in all, a splendid issue and my sincere thanks for same. 
For a few day* l*H live at the present address In JAWJAjW. 
— 432 South Spencer St., Dolton, Ga. c/e dtr-DoR Horfrtt. 

Tsk, tsk — Kuttner didn’t write FURY 
FROM LILLIPUT, Bob, it waa Murray 
Leinster, in this ease s ynonym ous with WiH 



F. Jenkins. As for the mixup in Jul>, your 
name was run as acting secretary of Science 
. Fiction International in the stfan club list- 
ings. That’s the way it was sent to us. Hope 
you enjoyed summering in the florist’s shop. 

HURT BUT NOT QUICK 
by Robert A. Rivenes 

Dear Editor: You hurt me«Jo tha quick. J know what ultimate 
means but what I didn't know was how it applied to the story, 
which I have now forgotten. And I'll hove you know that I 
use a dictionary very frequently in the process of solving two 
or three crossword puzzles a day. This will stop, however, 
when I return to school for the summer. I'm now on the work- 
ing part of the N.T.I. coop plan. 

And that brings up another point. As for as I can see 
stfiction is the only place where crossword puzzle words 
wouldn't be out of place Some of the world's real words 
are as odd as those that St. Clair employs. 

I'd like to say a little more about humor in stf. According 
to my way of thinking, however primative. a greater share of 
the humorous stfiction is nothing (I could stop here) more 
than a light story treatment with no serious attempt at humor. 
After all, except for the hacks, writers in this field are 
primarily concerned with science and its effects on humanity. 
A humorous effort by stf author. is considered os merely a 
breather and rf properly done will see print because of the 
extreme fatality of that type of story in the hands of the 
readers. 

"Siehst du" Metchette, who mentioned a number of sup- 
posedly funny stf stories, didn't mention the funniest (not 
just humorous but yakkingly funny) of recent stf tales, "Venus 
of the Seven Sexes" by Sturgeon. I know. That’s iust a oen 
name for George Blubitz. 

FURY FROM LILLIPUT — To the best of my meager knowl- 
edge this is the first time anyone investigated the physical 
effects of size reduction. Leinster did an ertremely tine job 
except (here if comes) for the impossible way he had the 
hero handily navigating about on the water. And the fourth 
paragraph wee really a surprise. Who could imagine that 
the cruiser Bazooka III would be an ordinary seagoing vessel? 

THE LION OF COMARRE — At first H seemed that someone 
hod finally written a story in which new inventions were im- 
possible but no, Clarke aid sneak out of it. 

AMPHISKIOS — MacDonald has finally blossomed out as a 
stf writer. I hope his stf hack is gone forever. Now what 
I'd like him to do is combine one of his fine 'tec plots with 
stf. I'll duck now. 

THE NEO-GEODUCK — 'Mid thunderous ovation from the 
multitudes. Oona and Jick return for a bow. Have you no- 
ticed how similar are this series and all of Bradbury's stories. 
The future and its effect on unsupermannish characters are tha 
basis for both. I wonder who does the betfer job? 

THE NAMING OF NAMES— Utter perfection. Notice the 
title. A mere mention of it years from now will be all that'* 
necessary to recall to mind the entire story. And that's as it 
should be. Every paragraph breeds terror, which is odd but 
Still good considering the vehicle it appears in. 

I hope Ray hasn’t given up his Earth-bound fantasy. The 
other planets may be all right but, after all, Earth it closer 
to home. Mrnmmyess l guess that's true. What h surprising 
abotrf Ray's stuff, it that you can concentrate on rt no matter 
where you are. i'm not fooling when I say that I read the 
above story at a session of the midget auto races. Pm pressed 
for time. 

I'm surprised at you, a master of puns, not getting my poor 
attempt bat you mast be pressed for time, too. . Hierophants? 

. . . tllaphants? It probably, would be betler if I explained 
thi* month's pun ahead of time. Siehst du? . . . C. Stew? 
Ohhhl . . . Now I get it ... . Clever— Oak Park, Illinois. 

Ella-phants — ye Gods and little pisces t 
Now, we suppose, you’ll be considering your 
prickly epistles as representing the national 
flower of Scotland. Don’t worry about RB — 
he has some very surprising new stuff due 
to appear shortly in these pages and those 
of SS. We’re going crazy trying to work 
Ella Raines into that pun of yours. Hiero — 
Raines, perhaps — but no, that will never do. 

LETS DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN 
by Elizabeth M. Curtis 

Dear Editor: Dirk Schaeffer's letter In the August issue rf 
TWS brings up a point -which I. hove long been considering, 
namely fhe reworking wffh variation* of well-known theme* 




and plots. Perhaps the ratio of people scandalized by swing- 
ing the classics to hep-cats who get a kick out of it is great- 
er than was the ratio of people shocked by Shakespeare's 
version of the Hamlet story to those who thought he did a 
good job with it. Perhaps our attitude these days is "novelty 
or nothing." I hope not. 

I think it is devoutly to be wished lhat every good plot or 
problem or intriguing situation may prove some stimulus 
to every creative mind that comes in contact with it. Sopho- 
cles* audiences are reputed to have waited breathlessly for 
the new dialogue of what was to them an old tale. Children, 
those severest of critics, seem to have an appetite for each of 
the scores of variations on the Cinderella story. And one 
solution of a problem is so seldom the whole situation for 
everybody. 

As a case in point, THE LION OF COMARRE by Clarke 
in the August issue is another working of the theme of 
friction in the relations between men and machines. Clarke 
settles, I think, for complete membership in society for the 
machines. His solution is, for me, much more valid than that 
given in a recent novel by Jack Williamson in which machines 
find it necessary to dominate man "for his own good." The 
values of machines are not the values of men. Clarke suggests 
that they can live in mutual respect. This idea seems both 
desirable and acceptable to me and I'm glad Clarke was 
willing to deal wilh an "old theme." 

The theme of PROJECT SPACESHIP by van Vogt will take 
plenty more versions. Selling the country on any non-military 
research project is a problem of such dimensions that we 
can use all the solutions creative minds can work out. The 
validity of these solutions is also tested in fiction, as The 
reader realizes that the courses of action offered are or are 
not reasonable and psychologically workable. 

As our scales of values are enlarged and enriched by the 
Creation of fiction heroes, so these values are fixed In our 
ideas by the repetition of heroic virtues in story after story. 
The idea of an adaptation to an alien frame of reference, as 
in Bradbury's THE NAMING OF NAMES, is one which will, 

I hope, give rise to more stories which will help to cultivate 
in the reader a desire to possess the ability to make certain 
adaptations, such as that from a conflict-based civilization to 
a cooperation-based one. 

Margaret St. Clair's NEO-GEODUCK is one of those rare 
pieces which make me get a kick out of what I have and what 
I'm doing. Her future-gadget-slang remains with me to make 
me smile when I whip up a cake with Fluffo, later to wrap it 
in Pliofilm and deterge the pan with Squeek. Bless the gal. 
And if the readers are not keen about a thousand more years 
of flower shows and bridge parties and vacation trips, let 
them take progress into their own hands. — Canton, New York. 

Dear heaven, Elizabeth, there are no 
new stories as such. So worry not on the 
subject of novelty in fiction. It is, as it has 
always been, a matter of the depth, talent 
and above all, the viewpoint and philosophy 
of the author — plus the characters and situ- 
ations resulting from character tempera- 
ment which the author employs to portray 
his story. We have long maintaned, both as 
editor and author, that the same story idea, 
given to fourteen different authors simul- 
taneously, would result in fourteen differ- 
ent stories. In fact, it always has. 

You are correct about fiction being the 
best medium for conveyance of ideas. One 

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quick look at the furore aroused by the 
singularly impartial Uncle Tom's Cabin just 
about tells the story. History is full of ex- 
amples in which an author’s make-believe 
has contributed to the thought of whole 
peoples — which is why dictatorships are in- 
variably hard on honest writing folk. Vol- 
taire, Rousseau, Zola, Henri Barbusse and 
scores, perhaps hundreds of other novelists 
have played, through their creations in the 
world of ideas, vital roles in human history. 

A nice letter, by the way, Elizabeth. En- 
core. 

WANTED— ANECDOTES 
by Sam Sockett 

Dear Editor: 1 am contemplating a scholarly critical study 
of these six science fiction writers — Ray Bradbury, Robert A, 
Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, Theodore 
Sturgeon and A. £. van Vogt. 

Perhaps some of your readers have knowledge of some 
biographical details or anecdotes concerning these men; or 
perhaps they have letters from them offering some clue as 




COMING IN THE NEXT ISSUE 

DEAD RUN 

Another Exciting Story 
in the 

SPACE SALVAGE 

series 

by 

CLEVE CARTMILL 



Cluthe Sent, Dept. 33, Bloomfield, New Jersey 

154 









1o why they write wk.t they write. It So, I should greatly ap- 
preciate hearing from them — and it my study eventuates in 
a book Ihey may b?- sure that I shall properly credit my 
sources. — Route 2, Box 24, Redlands, California. 

We suggest you get in touch with Donald 
B. Day, 3425 N. E. 38th Avenue, Portland 
13, Oregon, publisher of the FANSCIENT 
for the Oregon Science Fantasy Society. 
He has been running extremely complete 
profiles on science fiction authors of note, 
one to each issue of his excellent quarterly. 
Bradbury, Leinster, Bloch and others have 
already appeared, with complete stf biog- 
raphies of each, and we suspect he will 
have most of the men you want on tap or 
will know of source locations. 

Of course, we hope any readers who have 
such material will get in touch with you. 
Good luck and please let us see the outcome. 
It should be rewarding. 

Well, that seems to be that — all in all an 
interesting department to write and com- 
pile. We hope it comes out as well in the 
reading. We’ll be looking for you in the 
January STARTLING STORIES and, back 
in this corner, in February. Hasta la vista. 

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A REVIEW OF FANZINES 



S INCE the recent level of fanzines 
received here has been remarkably 
high both technically and in content, we 
have been hard put to it to find sufficient 
choice bits with which to fill this, our 
frying pan. In fact, until just before 
deadline we were considering filling 
space with a few choice excerpts from 
Eric, or Little by Little — or, perhaps, a 
few quotations from Helen’s Babies. 

But Allah, or rather “Y’r new Navy 
Editor, H. S. Weatherby, HM1, has been 
merciful. In the nick of time arrived a 
large something entitled THE BLACK 
SKULL MAGAZINE. Although TBSM 
proclaims itself on the cover as “Our 
First Issue” and is listed inside as Vol. 
1, No. 1, its editor’s opening statement 
begins as follows — 

You lovers of the strange and supernatural, 
we’re here again . . . 

Again? How come? But this is a mere 
bagatelle compared with wonders yet to 
come. Editor Weatherby, HM1, goes on 
to say — 

We present “THE ABOMINABLE” . . . 

— and sure enough, he does, in the 
presence of a lead story by Herman 
King and Harry S. Weatherby (that 
name is growing increasingly familiar). 
The introduction begins thusly — 



156 



Have you some acid handy? Before you 





retire, look in the trees and the bushes or, 
perhaps, beneath your bed. A Thing, my 
friends, is loose upon the earth, a Thing un- 
mindful of Life. Do you detect a horrible 
odor. . . ? 

Well, yes ! Rather ! And another of the 
feature stories in this Frying Pan bon- 
anza bears the remarkable title GUEST 
UNDER THE HOUSE. Also included is 
something called BLACK HORROR 
FROM THE VOID. The whole thing is 
wrapped up in a statement claiming for 
THE BLACK SKULL MAGAZINE a 
purport to “combine the talents, and 
literary works, from the editors and 
authors of the United States Navy, and 
the United States Army, as well.” 

The U.S. Marine Corps is invited to 
join in the fun but has thus far managed 
to stay aloof. As of right now we’re for 
calling a halt to this particular armed 
services unification program. Brrrrhhh ! 

Shades of Sneary! 

And now, after hovering vulture-like 
over the fanzine field, we swoop down 
on SPATIUM, “official organ of the Cen- 
tral New York Science Fantasy So- 
ciety,” co-edited by Harold W. Cheney 
and Ronald Stone, of Little Falls and 
Clinton, respectively. In their June- July 
issue they have included a something by 

[ Turn page ] 



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fan Jim Goldfrank, entitled THE TIME 
MACHINE THAT WOULDN’T STOP. 

We have no intention of discussing 
the merits of this story as such — we fear 
the task would be well beyond our 
feeble critical faculties — but the spell- 
ing is our dish. Misspelling, rather. 
Shades of Rick Sneary! We never no- 
ticed Mr. Goldfrank’s etymological ten- 
dencies in the several letters he has writ- 
ten for our reader’s column. Perhaps he 
has just blossomed suddenly, like a 
crocus in early spring. At any rate — in 
the slightly over a page taken up by the 
tale we found some beauts, to wit — 

Par. 2 — “expermenting” and “. . . Bertha, 
an ally cat he had made intelligent by a few 
innoculations.” Not only are expermenting t ally 
and innoculations flagrant misspellings but 
inoculation, according to our Webster, means, 
1.) Act, process or art of inoculating. 2.) The 
introduction of minute organisms or of serum 
or the like into living tissues, milk, culture 
media, soil, etc.; in medicine, such communica- 
tion of a disease virus to a healthy individual 
in order to induce a mild form of the disease 
and produce immunity. In other words, the 
alley cat was protected against intelligence 
if inoculations were used. 

'Par. 5 — "Underneath the pot was a bunson 
burner . . .” Bunson burner — ouch! 

Par. 8 — " ‘I was just thinking how oncorv- 
grgrous it was . . .” No comment. 

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Donnerwetterl - 

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Par. 2b — ". . . neccessary.” Are you sure. 
Brother Goldfrank? 

Par. 33 — "Interresting.” Oh, very! 

Par. 3b — “. . . emmitting . . .” Nifty. 

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158 






LOGIST, whose editor and chief con- 
tributor, H. T. McAdams of Bethalto, 
Illinois, can apologize for a horror in 
the very first paragraph of his opening 
editorial, which reads — 

The response to the first issue of The Fan- 
topologist was gratifying, to say the least. To 
paraphrase a story-title by Stephen Vincent 
Binct “Everybody was very nice.” 

Anyway, Mac, you couldn’t have 
meant his brother, William Rose Binet. 
And we always thought the Binet test 
was an I.Q. thing for toddlers ! Actually, 
the surname of the gifted brothers re- 
mains Benet! 

—THE EDITOR. 



When Nancy Holt 
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Dick Blair storms 
the gate of a 
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Ift 

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SCIENCE FICTION 
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SEVEN OUT OF TIME by Arthur Leo Zagat, Fantasy 
Press, Reading, Pennnsylvania ($3.00). 

It seems a pity that Arthur Leo Zagat 
did not live to see this, his best and best- 
known science fiction story, appear in book 
form. But at the same time the rest of us 
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drama and cosmic ingenuity which every 
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York’s Upper East Side, in a whirling eddy 
of dust. 

It seems as if no clues exist from which 
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But Marsh, steeping himself in the girl’s 
background, discovers the bizarre little 
snake-amulet in her bureau. He learns of 
the eddy of dust which appeared earlier, 
outside her country cottage, and left her 
alone and bitterly disappointed. He visits 
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never seen. It is this overpowering emotion 
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It is a big story and an exciting one and 
altogether a fitting valedictory for one of 
the ablest and most prolific of modern sci- 
ence fiction writers, who has, since his first 

[ Turn page] 



NEXT ISSUE'S NOVEL 




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Faceless Men,” will not soon be forgotten 
by those who have read them. 

So, if you like stf — good stf, that is — and 
heaven knows you would scarcely be read- 
ing this if you didn’t, latch onto "Seven Out 
of Time.” It should be a rewarding experi- 
ence. 

THE PORCELAIN MAGICIAN by Frank Owen, Gnome 
Press, New York ($3.00). 

The delicate Chinese fantasies of Frank 
Owen are scarcely science fiction as most 
of us think of it — but they have a charm and 
atmosphere all their own. They have magic 
— much of it — and are keyed to the tranquil 
romanticism of a people whose civilization 
was co-existent with that of Ancient Egypt 
and which still survives. 

If they lack the carefree cruelty of Ernest 
Bramah’s Kai Lung volumes — which in 
some ways they resemble — they are more 
delicately keyed to the pastel tones of the 
off-green shades of precious jade. And 
while avarice and lust are dealt with ade- 
quately, the faults of humanity are treated 
with a resigned smile rather than with the 
bowstring. 

For quiet reading, for thoughtful read- 
ing, for those who like to relax in jasmine- 
petal charm and the redolence of Chinese 
teas as in a warm bath, the stories in “The 
Porcelain Magician” make ideal compan- 
ions. 

—THE EDITOR 



Did You Know That — 

20,000,000 children in Europe and Asia 
need your help? 

One dollar will buy enough powdered milk 
to give 10 children a glass of milk a 
day for a week? 

One dollar tests and vaccinates 8 children 
against tuberculosis? 

Help them grow into strong, healthy adults! Send your 
contribution today to — 

UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN'S FUND 
COMMITTEE, NEW YORK 16, N. Y. 



162 





BIGGER PROFITS... 
NO STORE OVERHEAD... 

EXCLUSIVE SALES 
FEATURES BUILD YOUR 
REPEAT BUSINESS 



portunlty to 



“I have 

customers 



accumulated over 
The Mason line 



11 till- in, irk. 'I with 
of over I'o top 
t y dress, work 
sport shoes. The 
1 demand for our 
• makes It |x>ssihle 
r us to keep our 
rices down — even 
,ii wer this year — 
il «* m p 1 1 e r i s 1 n jf 
leather r o s I n I 
These mivlncs 
through tremen- 
dous production 
are passed on, 
Hits ninii you, to 
the folks In your 
j territory'. 

EXTRA PROFITS 
SELLING 
CLOTHING 

In addition to the generous profit you make on 
every pair of shoes, you have an opportunity to 
Al*1» T«» \ i M ’ 1 1 INCOMK hy heliim: h«p quality 

la at her J.iekeis, Wool Shirts. nils for men 

and Women. 



HUGE NATIONAL 
ADVERTISING PROGRAM 
BACKS YOU 

• You get l lie benefit of big, powerful ads In 
Sat unlay Feeding 

Good Ilouaekeefdnff, etc. People know Mason— 
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memtier. we pay for all this advertising — II 
doesn't cost you a cent. 

LEO DE MATO. WHO 
AVERAGES SIX SALES 
PER DAY, SAYS: 



RUSH THE COUPON NOW! 



HI /lWn\ T shoe mu. co, 

1? JH l"m CP ™ F Depl. M-337, Chippswo Fall., Wl* 



Mason Shoe Mfg. Co. 

Dept. M-337, Chippewa Falls, Wi«. 

Set me up for BIG FTIOFITS In '501 
Hush me I- III 11* Selling Outfit featuring 
/upper and Air Cukhlon Shoos, leather 
•f.iekets. other fast-«ellers. Show me how 
National Advertising makes more cus- 
tomers and profits for me. Send every- 
th in;: Free ami Hu si pa Id. (My own ahoe 



e Se 



SELLING 

OUTFIT1 



7£5 

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you're SAFE 

FROM FREEZE-OPS 

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you'reSaFE 

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X 



THERE’S NOTHING ELSE LIKE IT! 

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PRESfONE 

BRAND 

AMERICA’S LARGEST- SELLING ANTI - FREEZE 




On s s/>ot /asts a// winter? 



GUARANTEED! 

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The registered trade-marks 
“Prestone” and “ Uvervady” 
distinguish products of 

NATIONAL CARBON 
COMPANY. INC. 

SO Ea*t 42nd St.. New York 17. N. Y. 
Unit of Union Carbide 
and Carbon Corporation 

EH3 




you're SAFE 

FROM FREEZE-UPS 

no matter how 
cold it gets ! 



you're SAFE 

FROM BOIL AWAY 

no matter how warm it 
gets between cold spells ! 



THERE'S NOTHING ELSE LIKE IT! 

'P rest one" .inti -tree/e. Americas Number One 
brand is made to an exclusise formula. No other 
anti-freeze offers von the same guaranteed pro- 
Year after year, more ami more motorists 
on "Prestone" brand anti freeze for safe, 
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PRESTONE' 

BRAND 

LARGEST -SELLING ANTI - FREEZE 




n. -I, If, 

” ■’ ‘ ifu-i " Ii.i n " 

-.1 

NATIONAL CARBON 
COMPANY. INC. 

BO Ea-i V-Mi.l Si,. N.-w V ..m. I ; N. Y. 
/ ’mi »t l i ‘<i »-'•'</* i 

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